How much are we REALLY paying for waste?

As a consultant and educator in operations and supply chain management for the manufacturing industry, Ken Titmuss, a SAPICS and APICS Authorised Education Provider, has a habit of pondering over bills and quotations a bit more than does the average Joe Soap.

Considering his dinner bill the other evening he suddenly wondered how much he was actually paying for waste, in this month’s SmartProcurement.

To add insult to injury, I was even obliged to give the waiter a tip when the only probable benefit I received was the smile that accompanied the questionable service. Should I really have to pay as much for one glass of wine as I do for a whole bottle back in the Cape? A 500% mark up? In manufacturing I would never be able to mark up my material that much.

Waiting for the credit card machine, I regarded the hotel in the light of a manufacturing operation and concluded that it is a very flexible, agile, re-manufacturing business. Here they take a worn out, dirty, hungry assembly and convert it into a clean, rested and re-energised product that is ready to go out and do battle for another day. But are the best practices (those that were developed in manufacturing operations) applied within this realm?

How much waste should I be expected to pay for? I considered the 7 forms of waste as defined by Toyota’s Taiichi Ohno, considered to be the father of the Toyota Production System, which later became Lean Manufacturing.

Overproduction: How much food is prepared that never reaches the mouth of the customer and ends up feeding the pigs after the staff has had a go at it?

Waiting: Waiting to check in/out at the hotel, waiting for a seat in the restaurant, waiting for the menu, waiting to give my order, waiting for the food, waiting for the bill, waiting for the credit card machine…

Transporting: Why isn’t the kitchen in the centre of the restaurant? Surely this will reduce waiters’ travel distances when serving tables?

Inappropriate Processing: Maybe an expensive work center, such as the Head Chef cutting up the carrots instead of him working on his signature dish or the hotel manager having to change sheets.

Unnecessary Inventory: I might be wrong, but I don’t see hotels using planning bills of materials and MRP to calculate material requirements for their dependant demand inventory, rather, I see 50-year old re-order point systems with safety stock. Hence too much inventory. (And how much of that exceeds its shelf-life and has to be destroyed?)

Unnecessary Motion: In the kitchens that I have observed (mostly those in TV cooking programmes) I see people running around in all directions in an environment akin to a traditional job shop in an engineering works. Why hasn’t the operation been set up in work cells to produce a variable quantity of common types of dishes?

Defects: And finally, how many meals are thrown away because it is simply not on par? Do hotels subscribe to 6 Sigma – only 3.4 meals thrown away per million served?

Other questions came to mind whilst I was waiting for the credit card machine, which seemed to be having communication difficulties at another table:

• What happens to all those bits of soap and shampoo left over in your hotel room? I have paid for them and used to take them home until my bathroom resembled a soap factory.
• Why can’t I select my room when I book my hotel and decide whether I would prefer a duvet or blankets?
• Why can’t I do my restaurant booking online and, at the same time, select the meal I require? Surely this will reduce waiting time and help the chef to determine which ingredients to have in stock?
• Why must I wait until 14h00 to check into my hotel room when people like me check out at 06h00 or even earlier? Eight hours to do a setup is a bit excessive!

Oh, and don’t get me started on the layout of tea/coffee station at the seminar today: first the tea/coffee, then the sugar, the milk, hot water, biscuits… and then the cups?

At that point the waiter finally arrived with the credit card machine and we concluded our transaction. By that time it was much too late for me to watch the TV programme I had planned to earlier.

On the other hand, maybe the Hospitality Industry has something to teach us as well? Maybe I need to find out more! Why don’t we get together and share best practices?

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