The next waste we will discuss is that of overprocessing. Simply put, overprocessing occurs when the delivered product (or the manufacturing process associated with that product) includes something that does not add value for the customer. Sounds easy, doesn’t it? Well, it’s not always an easy thing to figure out.
Let’s look at a couple of examples
Blistered Over Scissors
The other day I bought a new pair of scissors. We really needed these because it seems that every pair we had in the house had become invisible or were stolen by gremlins. I had looked in all the special junk drawers, the shelf in the garage and all the other places where we keep stuff that we are trying to hide from ourselves. No luck; I would have to buy a new set for the house.
A couple of hours later I returned home to complete the project I had started that required the scissors in the first place. I opened the bag and took out my new scissors. Actually, I took out the package that contained my new scissors.
The scissors were contained in a clear, plastic sort of bubble. I think the industry term is a “blister-pack” since the plastics sort of humps up around the object contained within. It forms a rough outline of the object. Now, I knew I had made a mistake buying this particular brand of scissors because I knew that getting them out of the package would be an exercise in frustration.
I tried pulling apart the two halves of the package from the welded seam along the package edge. I tried to wiggle the end of the package hoping it would sufficiently weaken the plastic enough so that I could perhaps tear it open. I tried to bend the package over the sharp end of the scissors in an effort to push them through the plastic thus creating a hole from which I could start working the scissors outward. Nothing seemed to be working for me.
I noticed that there was a product support phone-number printed on the cardboard insert that was encased along with the scissors within the blister. I called and after several attempts I was speaking with a friendly person who assured me their only goal in life was my happiness. I explained my problem and the fellow shared with me that he too hated blister packs. He told me that they get many calls about the packaging. So I asked him if he had a solution. Is there an easy way to get into these things?
Well, the answer was so obvious. I felt like a complete fool. Why had I bothered this guy? Why hadn’t I thought of it? All I needed to open the package was . . . a pair of scissors!
Blister packs are one of my favorite personal gripes. They have to cost a small fortune for manufactures to process; they frustrate and anger customers. When they are finally breached, they’re dangerous because the stiff sharp plastic edges are like knife blades. Finally, they represent a source of potential environmental concern due to their plastic composition making them degrade very slowly over time. Also, their bulkiness means they take up an inordinate amount of space in landfills.
I’m sure the folks that make this stuff can provide all kinds of statistics proving how effective they are in terms of breakage and prevention of loss associated with shoplifting. I would add they are very effective in terms of sales prevention. I try not to buy products that are sold in this packaging.
Overprocessing Example #2
Another classic example of non-value add is the famous cotton ball stuffed into the pill bottle. This made sense at some point because it protected pills that were made of compressed powder. This early production process produced pills by simply pressing powder into a ball, almost like your hands pack snow into a ball when you are making snowballs. The pills were then placed in a bottle. If the bottle was shaken or dropped, the pills within would quickly crumble and return to their original powder-like state.
The solution to this problem came in the form of a big wad of, hopefully, sterile cotton stuffed into the bottle on top of the pills. The cotton acted a shock absorber and kept the bills from rubbing against one another or jarring together as the bottle was handled.
Today, pill manufacturers know how to build a tougher pill. They coat the pills with a hard shell, like a piece of M&M candy, or they infuse the powder with a binding agent and mold the whole thing into a hard little ball. Short of smacking the pill with a hammer, you’re not going to reduce the thing to powder or otherwise hurt them.
However, even with these state-of-the-art tougher pills, we still get the occasional ball of cotton in the bottle.
Why do we still get the cotton ball? Manufacturers will tell you that the consumer expects it; they want the cotton ball. What hooey! If you offer them a choice of with and without and put a price on the cotton, they’ll opt for cotton-less pill bottles every time.
Value in Conflict
These are simple examples. Today we have a more complicated world with less clearly defined perceptions of value. In some cases, one person’s idea of value is in conflict with another. Since we’re in the middle of a national healthcare debate here in the U.S., let’s stick with the pharmaceutical industry as our model.
We all like to have our bottles of pills secured with a childproof cap, right? Something that protects the kiddies from inadvertently getting into mom’s sleeping pills, ingesting them all and then taking a three-week nap. We love our children and anything that protects them is good, right? Yes, well, but wait a minute . . .
There is a large population of folks out there that suffer from arthritis. The very feature that keeps Junior safe from accidental overdose also infuriates arthritis sufferers. They can’t get to the meds that relieve the pain in their hands and fingers. They struggle with the twisting and push down concept because they have a tough time just grasping the bottle at all.
The solution is to offer an alternative package that features and easy opening container. Ditch the snazzy, complex, hard-to-use childproof top in favor of a top that is easier to open then the standard twist off or pop off top.
Consider another example. Many folks with high cholesterol or high blood pressure are encouraged to take an aspirin each day. The standard aspirin is a 325 mg tablet. The amount required to obtain the circulatory system benefit of aspirin therapy is something considerably less than the 325 mg tablet. Additionally, taking the full 325 mg tablet on a daily basis will frequently turn you into a bleeder. I’ve ruined more than one bathroom rug after nicking myself with a razor while on a tablet per day aspirin therapy. The bathroom ends up looking like something out a Sam Pekinpah film.
The pharmaceutical industry comes to the rescue again with a special low dosage version of aspirin. They even trademark unique names for the low dosage aspirin products.
In both of these cases, the “overprocessed” version of the product is sold at a premium price. The special, easy- to-open medicine bottle cost more to make and is purchased by fewer consumers then the standard product container. The same is true of the low dosage version of aspirin.
These examples drive home the premise that adding to a deliverable should only happen when the addition adds value and that benefit should be reflected in the price of the product.
Okay, I’m a cheapskate and I will buy the full dosage aspirin and cut the tablets in half. I don’t have arthritis, but I do have several easy open pill bottles at home that I use for my meds. I buy the cheap version of the pills and move them into the easy open bottles. However, there are folks out there who appreciate having the choice.
It does prove that consumers pay for value if they perceive that value. It also proves they resent having to pay for added product content that they don’t value.