Operations Management is one of those classes that causes you to see your whole world differently. The class is more conceptual than mathematical – though there is some math involved – and we’ve covered such concepts as The 4 Dimensions of Performance, The Bottleneck in a Production Line, Inventory Turns, Throughput, and Capacity. Now I’m looking at every multi-step process in my life with new eyes. I even found The Seven Sources of Waste – and hence the opportunities for improved efficiency – in the Indian vegetable curry and garlic naan I made for dinner yesterday evening.

  1.  Overproduction. There are only two of us, but my naan recipe produced 12 fluffy pieces of bread.
  2. Transportation. The spice packet I used to flavor my curry was produced in India. I purchased it in St. Louis, MO and packed it in my shipment to Rwanda, where my husband and I are stationed. Talk about transportation! If only I could find Indian spice packets locally.
  3. Re-work. My inexperienced hands took multiple attempts to form round naan. In the end, they were still uneven – but delicious.
  4. Over-processing. I budgeted too much time for the curry, and too little for the bread, so the curry ended up cooking longer than it needed to. No effect on the taste, but a small amount of wasted electricity.
  5. Unnecessary motion. Why are cutting boards always too small?  Seems like I’m constantly going back and forth between the cutting board and the pot on the stove.
  6. Inventory. All those chopped veggies ready to go into the pot. In Operations Management, “inventory” is the item that is going through the process – in this case vegetables going through a process of becoming curry.
  7. Waiting– for the web page with the recipe to load. Could Rwanda’s internet be any slower?

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