Scrap Bin Kaizen

If you are in a production operation, be it a factory or even administration, take a look in your scrap bins (or trash cans). What you find there can be very informative.

Is all scrap treated the same? In a lot of metal working operations, I see routine drop scrap mixed in with scrapped parts and products – things that were not intended to end up there.

If that is the case, what does it tell you about the attitude around scrapping a part? Is it routine, just part of getting the job done, like drop scrap?

If you find a scrapped part, can you find the defect or flaw that caused it to be unusable? How much work (and cost) was added after that defect was created? All of that is additional cost that added no value.

Was it painted? Partly assembled? Did it go through a bottleneck operation and consume capacity of the entire factory?

What about your trash cans or recycle bins in the office?

Do you see signs of frequent paper jams in printers and copiers? These events suck time away, and more than just the time to clear them. They cause a mental shifting of thought pattern away from the productive work that takes additional time to recover.

Here are a couple of thoughts.

Separate the routine drop scrap from bad parts that were supposed to be good parts. If you sacrifice parts to adjust in changeovers, separate those out into their own category.

Each of these is a different line of inquiry starting with the question “Why?”

Consider taking your bad parts from the last 24 hours and bringing them to a central location (or a location in the department). Conduct a “morning market” and get to the bottom of at least a couple of the root causes. You don’t have to solve all of them at once, just pick one and drive it to ground. Then another.

Scrap is not simply a material and time waste. It is a reflection of how well you really understand your processes.

3 Replies to “Scrap Bin Kaizen”

  1. Mark,

    You make some very good points – as usual. If Lean is at least partially about making abnormalities immediately visible, then hiding things in scrap bins should be a big no-no.

    One of the things that bothers me about scrap bins is that they all seem to have a built in silencer / cloaking attachment. Anything that goes in them not only becomes invisible, but it becomes totally silent as well.

    I remember one particular time when I was looking at several scrap bins being loaded into a trailer at one of our factories – compleley full. I asked the supervisor beside me how much money was in them. He simply replied that we were recycling the aluminum and thus got paid for the scrap. “Did you get paid more for the scrap than we sunk into making it?” I asked. Dead silence.

    So my words of advice were that if we did get more for it, we should simply dump all of our raw materials directly into scrap tubs to save processing time and labor. If we didn’t, then maybe we should start publicizing how much a full scrap tub actually cost us – after we get “paid” for it. When he did, the numbers were quite an eye opener for all involved.


  2. Scrap versus offall versus trimmings (in metal stamping lingo).
    Scrap are defective blanks,parts, etc.
    Offall is a piece large enough to be reused in a different part / stamping operation.
    Trimmings are pieces from around the part/blank unable to be reused.

    A silly company at which I worked had a vacuum form process to make a component part that went into but was unrelated to the final end product manufacturing processes.

    The vacuum form area took up vital production floor space plus had a plastic re-grinder for the trimmings. The component part was simple enough for any outside vacuum form shop to make, it was made from standard black sheet, and the part didn’t even have to be stored inside or delicately handled.

    When I recommended to outsource the vacuum form part and process, I was told that the real profits were made in reselling the totes of black regrind to the plastics industry since each tote was 500lbs plus of virgin black material.

    In other words, there was such great profit in the reground trimmings that no one in management wanted to let it go. However when I suggested the same idea in regards to recovering corrugated cardboard for resale and not landfilling the cardboard, management said that this was too difficult – ie: not enough profit.

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