Why Quantify


When engaged in Continuous Improvement (CI), a key objective is to identify, quantify, and eliminate waste.

People often ask why it is so important to quantify the waste – and the answer is straightforward: quantifying the waste does three things for you.

  1. First, it helps you distinguish between the “big‐hitters” and the nice‐to‐have improvements so you focus on the most important opportunities first.
  2. Second, it makes the organization aware of the cost of a delay in tackling a ‘big‐hitter’. If a problem is wasting $5 million a year, every week of delay is wasting nearly $100,000, so the organization wants to make sure nothing slows this improvement effort.
  3. And third, quantifying the waste enables you to have more meaningful discussions with other parts of the organization whose support you need to change the processes that cause the waste.

If you’re wondering about how to go about the process of quantification, here are three simple guidelines:

  1. Identify if and how the problem affects the four forms of waste: lost sales, material costs, time, and capital costs. If the problem causes delays, think through and estimate the form of waste that the delay results in. Does it increase capital such as inventory or receivables? Does it delay sales and revenue? Does it cost you customers and future business? Does it require additional people time? Many problems will affect more than one of the four forms — lost sales, material, time, and/or capital. For example, excess inventory not only ties up capital, but may increase the number of people who need to manage it, the warehouse costs to store it, and the probability of scrapping it. All these factors can be reasonably estimated with some historical data and getting close enough to the work.
  2. Quantify the impact, recognizing that assumptions and estimates will probably have to be made. If you have or can gather data, use the data and document where you got it. If you must use assumptions or estimates, document how you came up with that — who did you talk to? Perhaps document a range that you are pretty confident about.
  3. Do the math to roll it up into annual dollars.