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Yusen, We Have a Problem!: The Anomaly Family

Posted By Administration, Thursday, May 14, 2015
Updated: Tuesday, May 12, 2015

by Kirk White, Yusen Logistics (Americas) Inc.

When delving into the practical aspects of Kaizen, one of the most effective uses of standardization and creating/following rules is to illuminate anomalies. If processes are standardized and every operator in the gemba is following the rules, if something happens out of the normal set of operating guidelines, it is going to stand out like the proverbial sore thumb. These divergences from the norm reveal opportunities for improvement.

Although there are many causes of anomaly, each will generally fall under one of three varieties. These archetypes of inefficiency form one happy family of distraction.

They are sometimes known as "The Three M's" but for our purposes, imagine them as wayward kin.

Meet, The Anomaly Family: Muda. Muri. Mura.


The easiest to identify is also the hardest to extricate. Muda is waste. Muda is any step that does not directly add value to the task at hand. It comes in many forms:

Time – the worst Muda as it's a non-renewable resource. Time wastes include waiting (for product, information, staff, equipment etc.; just remember, when you are waiting, you are wasting) and error correction (also referred to as "re-work"; it is a great time expenditure when errors require the process to be done again).

People – improper planning/forecasting (e.g., expecting 20 containers but only receiving 10) can often lead to having a "bunch of folk" just standing around. This is especially frustrating when you have associate employees who are guaranteed a minimum, quickly adding dollars to the waste pot.

Equipment/Materials – As discussed in last month's article on 5S, too many tools and too cluttered of a Gemba can lead to inefficiencies. A story is told of an industrious employee working on a kitting project who decided to "pre-make" all his shipping boxes before starting the process; he reasoned that he would not have to stop during the procedure to make them. However, the resulting mountain of boxes created obstacle after obstacle as he tried to navigate around one hundred unstable cartons!

Movement – Also in line with last month's 5S article, tools and materials should be close to the work space. If the operator has to move the product to the tool or himself to the product (and that includes crouching or stretching to reach something), there is huge Muda in the space between; in fact, there is a great White Paper on the subject called "The Seven Deadly Wastes of Logistics," written by Joel Sutherland of LeHigh University and Bob Bennett, formally of Toyota.1 The goal with regards to Muda is to eliminate it. Don't try to merely reduce or streamline. Cut it out.


It is said that opposites attract. If Muda were to have a boyfriend, his name would be "Muri." Muri is the yin to Muda's yang. If Muda is too many people standing around and not enough work, Muri is too much work and not enough people.

Muri is strain. Overburden.

Imagine date night. A couple going out after a long hard week. They enter a restaurant. The place has thirty tables but only twelve or so are currently occupied. "Great," they think, "we'll sit down right away." They head for the host who informs them, "I know it looks like we're not full, but we have a policy that says if every server has four tables, then we consider ourselves full and there's a twenty minute wait." In this situation, one could point out that this restaurant, with its thirty tables, has only staffed for twelve. This restaurant has more customers than its policies allow it to effectively serve. This restaurant is experiencing Muri.

An operator trying to pack a box for shipment who has to constantly bend over to pick up the product is experiencing Muri (and probably back-pain to boot).

An unexpected shipment of ten containers arriving on a day that was staffed to handle four brings Muri along for the ride.


Muda and Muri got married and had a child: Mura.

Mura's middle name is "Inconsistency."

It is unevenness.

Sometimes there are too many people and not enough work (Muda) and sometimes there is way too much work and not enough people (Muri) and because there are not effective systems in place to predict and maintain a proper workflow, there are inconsistencies in the degree to which customers' expectations are met.

The goal to which any organization should strive is to have the right amount of people, materials, information, equipment, and work at the right time. The goal is a seamless flow of work.

Kaizen is a means toward achieving this. Integrating a robust Kaizen culture into a Gemba with standardized processes (Making the Rule) and visualization/scoreboards (Following the Rule) will set up an environment where anomalies are quickly identified and instantly addressed (Improving the Rule) and as Kaizen is ingrained more and more into an organization's operational DNA, it becomes easier to predict potential anomalies before they occur.


Kirk White has worked in every division of Yusen Logistics. After a brief stint in Transportation, he transferred to Corporate, where he coordinated Yusen's Employee Empowered Kaizen system and served as a Specialist for the Business Process Re-engineering group, after which he moved to the Warehouse division to serve as the East Coast Quality Manger before ultimately joining the International division, where he hopes to use his Quality knowledge base to prove an asset to OCM.

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Tags:  Kaizen 

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