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  • Writer's pictureSchüberl Consulting

The 3Ms of Lean Management as the key to process optimisation

Avoiding the 3Ms of lean management is the basic idea behind the lean approach. The three M's come from the Japanese and stand for Muri (overload), Mura (imbalance) and Muda (waste).



Muri - Overload

Overload is the use of resources beyond their capacity limits. This includes both humans and machines. Human overload is caused by additional work or the intensification of work processes, which can lead to tension, mental and physical strain and overwork. As we can see from the media, this is reflected in the overworking of care staff. In the case of machines or processes, overload is caused, for example, by constant overuse, which can lead to excessive wear and tear.


Mura - Imbalance

Imbalance is characterised by employees and machines constantly fluctuating between work overload and waiting times. There are fluctuating process times. These imbalances are caused, for example, by uncoordinated work equipment, production methods and inconsistencies in customer demand.

Examples of this imbalance and how to react to it can be seen in the airline industry, for example. Airlines are faced with the challenge that there is significantly more customer demand in summer than in winter. Airlines have summer and winter flight schedules to reflect this difference in demand for seat kilometres.


Muri and Mura can directly contribute to the creation of Muda, or waste. For example, if people are overworked (Muri), they may make mistakes or make unnecessary movements, leading to waste. Similarly, irregularities in the process (Mura) can lead to overproduction, waiting times or unnecessary transport, which is waste.


Muda - Waste

Waste is any activity that does not add value to the customer. It should be avoided or eliminated.


In order to determine the proportion of value added in a process, it is crucial to divide the activities into three categories:

  1. Value-adding: these activities contribute directly to the production process and are associated with a willingness to pay for the added value from the customer's perspective. Examples of value-adding activities are all activities that increase the value of the product or service, such as assembling parts or programming software.

  2. Necessary: These activities do not create primary value for the customer. However, companies are obliged to carry out these activities because of legal requirements or regulations (e.g. recording working hours, recording transactions for accounting purposes, etc.). The focus here should be on fulfilling the requirements more efficiently (e.g. through further digitalisation and automation).

  3. Waste: These are activities that do not create value for the customer and should therefore be avoided. This is often possible through technical or organisational measures (e.g. the use of the 5S method can drastically reduce lead and search times).


Typically, around 50% of activities in a process are wasteful (cross-sectional view across industries and lean maturity levels). This shows clear potential for efficiency improvements.


Waste can occur in various forms, which are described by the "eight types of waste":


Eight types of waste

In following articles we will show you which Lean methods and tools you can use to eliminate the sources of loss and types of waste mentioned.


Click here to contact us to identify and eliminate waste in your organisation.


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