The Seven Wastes were first developed by Taiichi Ohno, a Japanese industrial engineer and author credited with creating the Toyota Production System (TPS). To reduce waste and increase efficiency, businesses need to understand the different types of wastes and take proactive steps to identify and eliminate them. Let’s talk about waste in the waste management industry and where some opportunities may be.
This waste involves excessive handling of products throughout the supply chain, adding extra costs. It could include unnecessarily moving materials between departments or buildings. To reduce transportation waste, products should be made as close as possible to where they are needed/used to keep transportation costs low. Optimizing processes can help materials move quickly from one location to another.
The backbone of the modern waste management industry is the collection truck. Ensuring dispatch systems are able to quickly respond to customer needs and planning out the most efficient routes for a truck’s daily routes have created an entire sub-industry in this space. Companies to check out include: Rubicon and HaulerHero.
Inventory waste occurs when too much material is stored in warehouses or on shelves, adding cost without adding value to the final product. It can lead to lost opportunities due to obsolescence. To remove this waste, businesses should use Just in Time frameworks to produce only what customers need when they need it.
MRFs and recyclers are typically creating commodities and products from the raw materials within our trash. This requires understanding what reclaimers and end markets requires fo a material specification and ensuring the MRF can achieve these quality standards. Companies involved in this space include CieTrade and EnMass Energy.
Motion waste occurs when employees move more than necessary while performing tasks. Such ergonomic waste requires employees to use excess energy such as picking up objects, bending, or stretching. To eliminate this type of waste, employees should be trained to complete tasks quickly and efficiently with minimal movement between steps in a process.
Safety and ergonomics are a high focus for employees on the sort lines at MRFs. We’ve written about how robotics have revolutionized the sorting side of the business in order to help improve recycling rates…but also to reduce injury concerns. Companies to look at in this category include Everest, Glacier Robotics and Amp Robotics.
Waiting waste occurs when employees have to wait for resources, materials, information, etc. before work can begin. To eliminate this type of waste, businesses should ensure that they have adequate staff available and that each person involved in the process has clear instructions on their role and responsibilities before they start working on a project. Bringing modern work instructions and standard operating procedures ot the waste and recycling industry will continue to be a boon for this area and waste companies across the world would value experts in this skill.
Overproduction waste occurs when more product is created than required to meet customer demand. It’s often caused by poor forecasting. To eliminate this type of waste, businesses should ensure that they have accurate data on customer demand.
Overprocessing waste occurs when too much work is done on a product before it reaches the end customer, such as adding unnecessary features that don’t improve its performance or usefulness, resulting in wasted labor costs. To eliminate this type of waste, businesses should standardize work to some degree and only do what customers require.
There’s a large debate in the current recycling industry of how much a MRF should sort. Does a MRF separate out as many plastics as they can if they have markets? What if the volumes aren’t high and consistent and it takes a long time to create a truck load of material? This can cannabilize a lot of storage space in a MRF. Instead, could mixed materials be baled and sent to a secondary processor? Too many variables to dissect for this blog post but suffice it to say that every facility is different. Check out AMP Robotics and Purecycle for more info on this potential type of waste.
Defect waste refers to any material that doesn’t meet customer requirements due to errors in design, materials used, or production processes. To reduce this type of waste, businesses should ensure that employees are properly trained and have access to the right tools and materials to do their jobs correctly. Additionally, investing in quality control processes can help catch and correct defects before they impact customers. Companies like BinIt and Greyparrot use AI scanning to identify potential downtime risks as well as material composition datasets for operators processing recyclables.
To summarize, we’ve seen opportunities galore to apply modern manufacturing basics to the waste and recycling industry. Whether it is helping landfills plan where to dump material, how to route trucks efficiently or how to prevent waste at customer office buildings, preventing waste within the waste industry (super meta) can create an amazingly successful career path.