Even with the troubles of product defects at Toyota, the Lean methodology derived from the Toyota Production System is still valid. The simple fact is that Toyota has strayed from their own path and ventured into the world of mass production ways of working. With disastrous effect. The plan that Mr Toyoda has presented basically comes down to a renewed, and more strict, focus on the customer and on quality. And even though many people still view Lean as only applicable to manufacturing, it still moves up in the world of services. And rightfully so.
One of the key features of Lean is eliminating Muda, or waste. The continuous improvement is aimed at finding waste in an organization and remove it. In literature and practice, seven types of deadly waste are identified (unnecessary transportation, excess inventory, unnecessary motion of employees, waiting, over production, over processing, rework), and structurally removed from operations. In some circles, an eighth type of waste is acknowledged, as being the underutilizing of human talent. I think we can identify and remove a ninth type of waste: excess use of resources.
For this ninth type of waste, you just have to look around you to find vivid examples. It ranges from excess use of energy by leaving machines or lights switched on when not necessary, extra long meetings with too many attendees who do not all need to be present, excess use of paper by printing everything you need to read. But the example I want to go into a bit deeper is more hidden, but is relatively easy to eliminate: excess use of data storage space.
Most of us are used to communicating with our colleagues through email. We send important documents, messages and requests by mail to the recipients, meanwhile copying our managers, co-workers and anybody else that we think should be interested. Every time we send an email, what we actually do is create a digital copy that consumes storage space. If it is a short message to one person, it might not seem that much. But just look at the last 25 mails you’ve sent. The average distribution list probably contains at least 4 people, the average message contains the complete mail chain, and 1 out of 4 messages probably contain an attachment. An example calculation of the direct storage space needed could be as follows:
– message size: 50 KB
– attachment size: 1 MB
– storage size needed: 5 times 1.05MB = 5.25 MB.
Then take into account that you probably send/receive about 20 messages like this per day, and just imagine that you work in a company with roughly 80.000 employees world wide. Factor in the datatraffic and backup storage costs, plus the energy used for all of this. I didn’t dare…
But how can we do this different? Imagine a world where we have as centrally hosted messaging platform. And next to that, a centrally hosted document repository. As a cherry on the cake, we also have a system that allows us to talk to eachother directly with information stored only in memory, unless we indicate we want to save the conversation. Doesn’t really sound futuristic, does it? This world exists, and is often referred to as Enterprise2.0. But whatever nametag you put on it: we don’t use it enough. There are platforms that allow centrally hosted group discussion within a closed network. Yammer is an example, but Lotus Connections is as well. And there are many other solutions like that. Next to that, most companies have a document repository at their disposal. Ranging from a shared network drive to fully open source knowledge management systems of the Drupal type. On top of that we have Office communicator, GoogleTalk, FacebookChat, Skype and many other instant messaging solutions, that often support voice over IP as well (say goodbye to a large chunk of your monthly phone bill).
So, in my last post on this platform, as I am leaving Capgemini with a small tear in my eye, I would like to call on you to think before you mail. Please consider to use that internal or external social media platform like Yammer or Twitter more, and centrally store your documents and just communicate links. Either through a microblogging platform or instant messaging. Eliminating the waste of excess resource usage can be so simple. Just do it!

Arjan Tupan is a Transformation Manager at Capgemini. You can follow and connect with him via Twitter or LinkedIn