Note:  This blog is the first in a series on the “Seven Wastes of Muda”.

 A favorite exercise to test your memory is to recite the names of Snow White’s Seven Dwarves: You know, Dopey, Grumpy, Doc, … ah; well; you know them, right?  (I can usually get five or six of them.)  How about Santa’s Reindeer?  Or the nine (or is it eight now?) Planets?

 How disappointing, then, if you can’t remember the Seven Wastes of Muda. My favorite pneumonic for them is Tim Wood, or TIMWOOD:

  • Transportation
  • Inventory
  • Motion
  • Waiting
  • Over Processing
  • Over Production
  • Defects

While you may have trouble remembering their names, courts work with them every day.

 The Toyota Production System defined “Value” as “Something a customer is willing to pay for”.  Almost axiomatically, then, the definition for Waste is, “would somebody pay for this activity?”.   If the answer is not “Yes”, then the activity is waste in that, if the outcome/product can be produced without it, the customer will not miss it.  Would a litigant miss judicial impartiality, procedural fairness, or legal correctness in a court determination?  Absolutely.  Would that same litigant care whether a paper file was retrieved from a central file storage, carried to the judge (perhaps even in a different building), then returned (timely and accurately) to file storage?  No.  While access to the file and documents may be necessary to an appropriate consideration of a matter, any effort or expense beyond what is minimally necessary is waste. 

 Some studies claim that over ninety percent of an organization’s work is Waste, when the above descriptions are applied.  While there might be some quibble about the actual figures in courts, I doubt the percentage is not pretty high, making the strategic importance of the management effort to eliminate waste (muda in the Toyota Production System) paramount.  And muda in courts invariably and rapidly leads to the need to develop and implement a robust Enterprise Content Management (ECM) system. 

 Consider the Waste of Transportation in the above example.  Of course there is the cost of staff labor to move hard copy files and documents from place to place.  Also, the court then has the choice of which OTHER waste it prefers: Should it incur Waiting, while the transportation is in progress?  Or, would it be better to transport the materials in advance, thereby creating work-in-progress Inventory (stacks of documents and files waiting to be processed)?  And, considering that it’s probably the practice to send anything that might be needed, more will go than is ever used (Overproduction).

 Here we see how ECM can eliminate huge pools of “waste”.  In just the relatively simplistic Transportation category, ECM can save both the staff cost in transport AND the related waste of either Waiting, as when a judge needs a file unexpectedly during a hearing; or Inventory, as where many files are pulled and transported, often well in advance.

 By implementing ECM with appropriate workflow, routine document and file transportation can be almost, if not completely, controlled and accomplished using configurable workflow based on the court’s rules and practices.  Non-routine transportation (again, consider the judge on the bench who needs another file) can be accomplished in seconds (eliminating Waiting).  Furthermore, staff need not be interrupted and tasked with fetching (in TPS called Muri: Overburdening).

 There are many ways, in courts, to attack and eliminate the waste of Transportation.   Remote video hearings and location of a court in close proximity to frequent participants (juvenile hearings at a Juvenile Center, for instance) are a few non-document centric examples (although implementing them gives even greater rise to the need for ECM).  Nevertheless, when seeking to minimize waste in court processes (Muda), Transportation, considered in the context of the potential of ECM, presents a huge area of opportunity.

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