While reading Morgan & Liker (2006), I was reminded that most individuals and companies view lean as being focused on removing waste (Muda). It is really much more. What many individuals don’t realize there are two other M’s that lean focuses on eliminating. The second M is Muri (overburden). Muri is simply problems that develop and are unique to the process when demand exceeds about 80% of the available capacity. The third M, and the focus of this article, is Mura (unevenness). Mura refers to process issues that arise when the demand is uneven and not consistent.
The other day I had the opportunity to sit with Doug Moss, CEO of Txtwire Communications, to learn more about his business of mobile marketing. For anyone who may not know, mobile marketing is the distribution of coupons and exclusive specials via text messages sent to cellular devices. A user texts a key word or phase to a specific number to receive the coupon(s) and is immediately enrolled in a marketing list for future offers.
At this point, you may be wondering why a lean sigma blog is discussing mobile marketing; well now the lean application and focus on elimination of Mura begins.
Moss indicated that one of their clients, an ice cream store, uses the service to distribute exclusive, time sensitive offers to increase the customer flow (demand) into their establishment during the specific “slow times”. In this case, the business objective is not to eliminate Muda; rather they are focusing on controlling Mura. Simply put, when the establishment has staffed to a higher demand than they are experiencing, Moss’s client takes immediate and direct steps to increase (even out) customer flow into their place of business.
The point of highlighting Moss’s example is that many lean practitioners focus solely on removing the waste (Muda) and often forget about the other side of the equation that Mura leads to Muda. Therefore, the potential to increase (or even out) demand and realize additional revenue is overlooked.
At the end of the day, the goal of lean is to increase the profitability of the business. One way to increase the profitability of the business is to eliminate the Mura before it leads to Muda by taking action to level the demand.
Morgan, J. M. & Liker, J. K. (2006). The Toyota product development system: Integrating people, process and technology. New York: Productivity Press.
Post Author: Royce Williard
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