Waste prevention a primary focus of lean innovation at Amazon

Article Revised: March 28, 2019

Customers won’t pay for waste. That’s why, according to a recent post from Innovation Excellence, waste prevention has been a primary focus of lean innovation at Amazon. Thanks to the understanding of this from the CEO and Amazon creator, Jeff Bezos, the company implements lean principles from the way it ships to how it handles returned products, and everything in between. Here are a few examples:

* The selection of a shipping method focuses first on the anticipated delivery date, with lower cost options entering the equation only if they provide an equal likelihood of being delivered on-time.

* Amazon’s more complex and high value services are handled by humans. Machines are used to support that process. This is called autonomation: machines perform repetitive, low-value tasks which enable humans to complete the process in a defect-free way.

* Another lean principle deployed by the company is “standard work” — this combines the elements of the process into the most effective sequence in order to reduce waste and the most efficient level of production.

* By using Kaizen — the philosophy of continuously improving products or processes to meet or exceed customer expectations — the company reduced its stowing time on products with a certain number of frontline staff. They used a bottom-up solution to solve top-down productivity goals.

* The company deployed the andon-cord principle in its customer service department. If a product has a defect, as discovered during the returns process and it’s revealed to be a repetitive defect, the product will be removed from the website until the defects are corrected. In the meantime, it empowers the employees to explain to customers that the product has been placed in the lab for quality issues and give them the option of a replacement product or reimbursement. This process is called “stopping the line.”

* In the future, Amazon intends to implement lean principles into its software creation, enabling engineers to also stop the line when a defect is discovered during development.

Amazon is clearly leading the pack when it comes to using lean concepts to solve the problems companies face today. Would you believe, though, that those concepts can work for any company?

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