Overproduction Waste

By Penny Macias | June 11, 2015

Overproduction is one of the eight types of waste in LEAN/Six Sigma techniques. It refers to making more product than your customer needs or wants. Examples of this include making 45 copies for a meeting where only 12 people have confirmed their attendance.

Overproduction can also refer to making a product or service at a much higher level than the customer expects. Here are three practical examples.

  1. If I prepare a 50-page report for someone who only requested a one-page summary, they'd likely read the first page, flip to the last page, and disregard the pages in between. Imagine the time wasted on all the extras that no one used.
  2. If Tulsa Transit changes its fleet from buses to stretch limousines, riders would enjoy the amenities, but that's not what they expect or need from the service and probably is not within their budget.
  3. If you get in a cab for a straight half-mile trip, you'd expect the driver to take the shortest route. However, if the driver turned it into a three-mile trip, that would be overproduction.

In all of these examples, it's important to note that with any type of overproduction someone has to pay for it. If it isn't the customer, it's the provider.

Even though each employee's potential for overproduction waste may be small, the City of Tulsa is such a large organization that a little waste in every area can add up - overall - to a lot of waste.

How is overproduction prevented? First, it is vital that you know the voice of the customer. This requires you to determine what minimum level of product or service the customer expects and is willing to pay for beyond the original amount. It also requires a clear understanding of the deadlines and how unsuccessfully meeting deadlines or meeting a deadline too soon can negatively impact the customer and the costs. Second, you must regularly communicate with the customer to hear how their needs have changed. Finally, you must manage the creation of the product or delivery of a service to regularly stick to boundaries. If contractors are doing work for you, then you must communicate with them regularly to make sure they understand the voice of the customer and are only providing needed services. Employees should be managed well enough so they don't perform work outside of the scope of their job unless it expands to meet customer demands.

This requires a team to stay diligent and attentive every day. But, with every reduction in overproduction, the team will have extra resources to devote to what customers need the most.

How can you and your team reduce or eliminate overproduction? I look forward to hearing your ideas and wins in this area.