Email and Transportation Waste

Technology has helped us in so many ways.  I know the perception is that lean thinkers do not like technology.  That is not the case.  We just like to be sure it supports our process and helps to eliminate waste.

With that in mind, has technology really helped us with waste in regards to information transfer?  Especially, in a building?  My observations say it has not in certain instances.  It has just shifted the waste from one form to another.

Here is the example that caught my attention.  Before email and transferring documents electronically we would have to send a paper copy through inter-office mail or mail it.  During that transportation time, the sender would contact the recipient and let them know it was coming.  The recipient was expecting it so when it arrived it would not sit very long before the value was added.

Now with email and notifications of a document being ready in a system, the recipient receives something immediately from the sender.  It is so quick, the recipient may not be looking for it, know it was coming, or even be available when it arrives in the inbox.  So now the work sits and waits and waits before the value is added.  So the total time between activities is not much different than the old way.

I’m not saying email and technology is bad, I’m just wondering did we shift the waste from being transportation to waiting?  Did we get to the root cause of why the waste even exists?  What are your thoughts?  I know it has helped, but how much?  Am I completely off base with this?


Posted on September 15, 2010, in Problem Solving, Waste and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. Matt, there is another possibility. Did we automate the waste? It is kind of like using a conveyer belt to move items instead of eliminating the transportation waste we automated the waste. I am sure you find a similiar suitation to me in the fact that many people use email when a face-to-face conversation is better. Avoiding a 1 minute conversation and sending an email can generate a lot of waste. There is waiting for email on servers, firewalls, and inboxes. People wait. There is storage or inventory waste to store emails. There is excess processing of emailing over talking. There is the dreaded recall of the email or defective email. Too many emails to too many people with the cc and bcc causing overproduction.

    I think this is why the younger generations do not use email. They recognize some of the weaknesses and use other types of media for conversation. Many preferring twitter, facebook updates, instant messenger, and text for example. I am sure this too will advance. Like you I just hope they consider the waste within previous versions and not automate but eliminate it.

    • Tim, those are all great points. You nailed it in the analogy with the conveyor belt. Being of the email generation, I have never thought about the next generation using twitter, facebook, etc.. because they see the inefficiencies in email.

  2. for email case..blackberry has nailed the problem and works well for me..

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