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  • One of the most interesting topics in my Lean Six Sigma workshops is that of Value Add & Non-Value Add analysis. As per Lean, we classify a process step or feature as “Value add” (VA) if it truly adds value from the customer’s perspective. Those steps or features which do not are simply called “Non-value add” (NVA).


    To be considered Value Adding (VA), the step must meet all of the three of the following criteria:
    1. The process step transforms the item toward completion
    2. The process step is done right the first time (no rework)
    3. The customer is willing to pay for it


    Non-Value Added Activities refer to process steps that fail to meet one or more of the above-mentioned criteria. Just because a process step or feature is categorized as NVA doesn’t mean that we must eliminate it. Though these steps and features identified as NVA are the first choice for elimination, we often cannot remove them because of regulatory reasons or requirements. Many synonymously used terms for NVA include Value enabling, Necessary NVA, Essential NVA, Business VA, NVA but required.

    One such discussion is about classifying Quality controls/Inspections/Checks as VA or NVA. I would recommend you to read the blog Be careful with the term “NVA” traveling which is an interesting discussion on my former statement.


    I have been traveling extensively across major Indian cities for my Lean Six Sigma public workshops and corporate programs for business improvement. One of the tasks I find very cumbersome and tiring is the airport clearance procedure. Many times I feel there are too many non-value-adding steps in this process.Curious enough, I jotted down the process steps from the main gate (Mumbai domestic airport) to my aircraft seat for my last domestic flight to Delhi. I have also included some experiences from my recent flights in the same example. I have referred my experience as a “Passenger”. 

    Passenger walks to the Airport entry gate


    He observes one long line. There is another adjacent area that is barricaded that could serve as a check point for a second line. Since there is no security guard there, only one line remains active. He patiently waits for his turn.


    Check 1: Security personnel at the gate checks his e-Ticket and ID card

    After entry, the passenger walks to the check-in counter of his airline to drop his luggage. (Waits in queue)


    Check 2: At the check-in, counter ground-staff checks the e-ticket and ID card. Issues boarding pass to the passenger and tags his luggage.

    A baggage tag is given by the ground staff to the passenger for attaching to his cabin bag. This step is very commonly missed by the staff or the passenger and realized later at the security gate.

    The passenger then walks towards the security gates. Before the entry to security gates, he encounters another security personnel.


    Check 3: Security personnel checks boarding pass to allow access to the security gates.The guard also directs him to stand in a particular queue. On reaching the station he removes his laptop and certain other items from his cabin bag. However, he cannot find a large tray for his laptop. He politely requests for the same, which a security personnel delivers reluctantly after 2-3 minutes.

  • (This is one step where I see a lot of discrepancies at different airports. Sometimes the instruction is to remove your wallet and mobile phones in the tray and many times the instruction is to slip those into your bag. Those who are traveling for the first time always end up carrying their wallets to the frisking step and returning back causing more chaos and waiting.)

    A passenger walks through the security gates


    Check 4: The cabin luggage gets scanned. At the same time, the passenger is frisked by the security personnel. The boarding pass is checked again and stamped. The baggage tag gets stamped (unless there is some concern with regards to any items being carried. Otherwise this might follow up with a physical inspection of the contents of the bag).

    Post security clearance the passenger walks towards the common entrance to all gates. He encounters another security personnel.


    Check 5: Security personnel checks the stamped boarding pass and baggage tag (This personnel is only present during high alert at the Airport)


    A passenger walks to his boarding gate. Waits for the boarding process to commence. After commencement waits in the queue.

    (One irrelevant step that I have observed is the staff trying to sequentially board the passengers. This would make perfect sense if an aerobridge is used. However, this step, I believe is of lesser significance if buses are used to carry the passengers to the Aircraft.)


    Check 6: Ground staff scans boarding pass. (Many times a portion of the boarding pass is torn off after scanning to cross check later)


    Check 7: Security/Ground staff checks for stamped baggage tag. (Occasional)

    A passenger boards the airline bus. He stands patiently in the bus till it reaches the designated aircraft and further waits for the bus doors to open. Once the doors are open he moves towards the boarding ramp.


    Check 8: Ground staff tears off a portion of the boarding pass and checks for baggage tag (If the boarding pass portion was torn off in check 6, then the staff only inspects the boarding pass)

    Passenger finally boards his flight



    (There might be certain changes in the steps mentioned above since different airports follow slightly different procedures)

    Well, what we know is that these checks are in place considering certain potential failure modes at those steps. We don’t want to compromise on safety and regulatory compliance. Some steps like Check 4 are absolutely essential. I still believe there is a huge scope for improvement here and I assume you too would feel the same.

    About the Author

    Parag Mehta is a Lean Six Sigma Consultant and Trainer at Benchmark Six Sigma. He has a blend of experience in the application of six sigma tools to Manufacturing, Research & development, Quality control and Technical services. He loves to use real life stories for explaining various techniques and concepts in his training programs. He has special interest in Design of Experiments, Problem Solving, Process improvement, Data analysis tools and Capability building. In addition to his expertise on statistical methodology, Parag has done extensive work in the application of the same in Pharmaceutical and Healthcare area.

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