The Waste of Over Processing
Over-processing occurs anytime more resources are used than truly needed to satisfy customers. Unfortunately, over-processing is one of the most difficult wastes to accurately identify and assess, making it rampant in many organizations.

Just a few examples of over-processing include the following…

  • Machines operating slower or faster than necessary

  • Equipment that uses more energy than needed

  • Performing redundant tasks

  • Doing things just because it’s the historical norm

  • Cleaning things multiple times

  • Paying meticulous attention to detail with no added benefit.

The Cost of Over Processing

The cost of over-processing can be measured by paying attention to the direct running cost, such as labor, energy, space, materials, and equipment used to perform unnecessary tasks.
When people and machines are not providing a value add to the process, that’s the cost of over-processing.

By eliminating over-processing, increased productivity will be evident and achieved. So, to eliminate these wastes, we first need to know what the root cause is.

What Causes Over Processing?

  1. Unclear Customer Requirements

    Probably the most common ultimately root cause of over processing, is poorly understanding customers’ needs. As a result, we end up developing features or delivering benefits that our customer isn’t really concerned about.

  2. Complex Designs

    Overly complex designs are a form of over processing since by definition, they require greater development than necessary to delivery customer value. Furthermore, complex designs can lead to additional over processing due to the need for excess materials, labor, and other resources.

  3. Lack of Communication

    Insufficient communication can occur either internally or externally. Regardless, poor communication leads to over processing anytime expectations are unclear to the people responsible for producing the product or delivering the service.

Common Tools to Prevent Over Processing

  1. Stop

    Most importantly, once you have determined the cause of over processing, stop doing it. This may seem simplistic, but many companies fail to improve known problems. Remember, the sooner you eliminate a waste, the better.

  2. Process Map

    Having a workflow or detailed map of processes and value streams helps eliminate over processing by helping to clearly identify customer needs, and unnecessary steps and resources.

  3. Understand the Customer

    Finding a way to capture the voice of your customer is vital as this affects everything in your organization. You can gather information in several ways including surveys and questionnaires. Better yet, connect with your customers and find out what they truly value in a solution.

  4. Value engineering (VE)

    Value engineering is a systematic approach to improving the value delivered by a solution by improving its function or reducing its cost.

The Lean Burrito

Paul Akers, a renowned Lean thinker analyzes how much over processing goes into a single burrito. At a restaurant, while he ordered a burrito with sour cream and salsa, he received a burrito along with foil wrapping his burrito, two tubs for sour cream, and salsa, a plastic fork, a plastic knife, two napkins, and a box to contain it all.

A lot of the things that came with the burrito were simply not needed. In reality, it would have been far better to just put the salsa and sour cream on the burrito. There was no need for the plastic fork and knife, and one napkin would have been enough.

The lesson here is that often when you look closer at products and processes, you will discover the over-processing is rampant. It may seem hard to detect at first, but it is present everywhere in our daily lives. Eliminate this waste and it can lead to better processes and even more revenue for your organization.