April 28 2014 07:00 PM

The term "muda" is a Japanese word meaning unnecessary waste in a process or system. "Muda" was first introduced in the Toyota Production System (TPS) or, as it is commonly referred to today, Lean manufacturing. Many process improvement methodologies, including Lean manufacturing, Lean six sigma, TPS, and Agile software development incorporate these concepts by focusing on reducing costs and improving efficiencies, by eliminating "muda" (waste).
There are seven common kinds of "muda":

1. Over production - producing more than the customer has ordered.
2. Waiting - idle time when there is no value added to the product or service.
3. Transportation - movement that does not add value.
4. Inventory - unnecessary raw material, Work in Process (WIP) or finished goods.
5. Motion unnecessary movement of people that does not add value.
6. Over Processing - adding steps that the customer is unwilling to pay for.
7. Defects work that requires rework.

Process improvement methodologies like TPS tie every business action to either being a value add (beneficial to the customer) or a non-value add (of no benefit to the customer). The concept of eliminating "muda" can be applied to a mailing process to help mailing managers increase profitability by eliminating non-value added activities. Effective mailing software should help to eliminate "muda" from the mail stream.

Can you identify the "muda" in your mailing process?
Producing more mailpieces than necessary to deliver a message is over production "muda." To reduce the over production of mailpieces, software can be leveraged to improve the quality of your address list by removing duplicate records, ensure deliverability by utilizing a variety of address quality products (DPV/DSF2), and to household your list (the process of combining names of related people who share a common address).

Waiting "muda" happens when mailing software performs calculations or operations utilizing batch processing techniques. This waiting can increase dramatically with large lists, inexperienced users, and with inventory buildups. Import a list and wait, encode a list and wait, presort a list and wait, create reports and labels and wait for these processes to finish. If these processes are not automated, this waiting becomes substantial over time, even for the fastest software. Your software vendor should be able to educate you on automating these processes, allowing you to eradicate this costly waiting "muda."

It will be interesting to see how the USPS handles the decision to remove the requirement to comply with Full Service Intelligent Mail. If the USPS requires the acceptance clerk to enter the documentation into the Postal Wizard, then this will cause waiting "muda" for the mailer. TEM certified software can help you onboard to Full Service Intelligent Mail and eliminate waiting for the acceptance clerk to key in your information.

Returned mail is movement that does not add value to your business. Sending records through an NCOALink process before preparing the mail and utilizing an ACS process to identify problem addresses after the mail is prepared can identify transportation "muda." Your software should allow you an easy method to improve these address records or remove them from any future mailings.

Sending mail to the ground floor of a business high-rise when it should go to the top floor is unnecessary motion. This waste affects the mailer indirectly in terms of slower delivery times and possible damage to the mailpiece due to multiple handoffs. Passing your address list through a SuiteLink product can assign a suite prior to sending. This will allow your trusted mail carrier to deliver the piece directly to the top floor and eliminate this type of transportation "muda."

Postal software stores data associated with each list, and this data can accumulate and eventually create inventory "muda." This "muda" can be identified by observing your users hunting through large directories to find a file, list, or saved item. In more severe cases, this inventory "muda" can fill up the system resources. In both cases, the inventory "muda" can decrease performance of both workers and machines. Postal software should have an easy way to clean up wasted virtual inventory.

Motion "muda" can be found when users share the same postal software on the same system because users must travel to perform their work. Lean aware postal software solutions are capable of networking. This allows your users access to the software from several locations and allows users to work in parallel.
Printing paper statements along with submitting eDocs through Full Service Intelligent Mail can create over processing "muda." Mailing software should give you the ability to choose between eDoc and paper.

The defect "muda" is anything that requires users to rework their mailing job. Software that is Lean aware will do its best to limit defect "muda" by providing you with warnings or errors messages before any mistakes are made in the processing. The recent changes to the labeling list frequency may result in defects if your software does not prevent or aid in detecting situations prone to error. Software that helps ensure the labeling list date does not expire before mail induction goes far in eliminating these types of waste.

The theory behind eliminating "muda" is to replace the non-value added activity with activity that creates value for your customer, your suppliers, and your business, therefore cutting costs and increasing profits. The right mailing software can help if it has eliminated its own processing "muda." The next time you walk through your operation, see if you can identify the seven kinds of "muda" in your mail.