Waste is inevitable on the packaging line. But when packaging line managers find
waste, do they treat the symptoms of the
problem or do they treat the root cause
of the problem? Many opt for treating the
symptoms, but from what I have seen,
the root cause will always loom over the
business, and may create larger problems
So how can you identify and eliminate the
root cause of waste in your packaging line?
Most waste is hidden by compensating
behaviors. First, I’ll address how to
recognize a compensating behavior and
then highlight two of the biggest problems
and time-wasters I’ve encountered, and
how you can fix them.
What Is A Compensating
Behavior? How Do You
A compensating behavior is something
that you do to make up for, and prolong,
finding a solution for a much larger
problem. An example: You have a product
inspection system that reviews your line
to help ensure that you don’t let any bad
codes get out. Sounds great, right? You’re
preventing bad codes from leaving
However, your product inspection
system is actually a compensating
behavior for the things on your line
that might be causing you to have the
bad codes in the first place. In this
case, you’re treating the symptom (bad
codes) but not the root cause of why
they are there.
Through my work and discussions
with line managers, I’ve found three
questions to ask that help identify
1. How does that step generate value?
Let’s say that you’re a large global
beverage company. The value you are
delivering is in full, sealed, labeled bottles
of soda. But how do you generate that
value? In the factory, it may be at the
filling machine where the beverage goes
into the bottle.
2. How does that step generate value
for the customer?
Once you understand how a step in
your process generates value, you need to
better understand whether that same step
also generates value for your customer.
A related question might be “if it’s
not contributing value, why are you doing
it?” and using other “why” questions to
figure out why you do each step. In Lean,
we call this the “five whys.” Ask why at
least five times to start digging deeper
into issues to pinpoint the true root cause
of a problem.
Often, once you start digging into each
“why,” you’ll realize that there are certain
actions or processes on the line that
have continued to simply mask bigger
problems. While the masking works, it
also wastes time in the overall process,
preventing you from hitting the day’s
production targets. Why not just get rid of
real problem? Go to the root cause and fix
problems that shouldn’t occur in the first
place. It may be a change in philosophy
for your team to look for these deep-seated problems on the line by asking
questions, but I promise that it will be a
3. How do you implement
countermeasures to the root cause?
Once you’ve identified the root
cause, you can also begin to identify
countermeasures that you can implement
immediately in order to fix the problem.
Unlike compensating behaviors, effective
countermeasures should actually
eliminate the root cause of the problem
and provide long-term solutions.
Stop Compensating For
Waste On The Packaging Line
By Jessica Wettstein