Lean Concept of Waste

Waste Analysis
  • Also known as the Eight Wastes and the Eight Deadly Wastes and the eight forms of waste.

    Variants include the Seven Wastes.

    Within a Lean culture, waste is anything that doesn’t add value from the customer’s perspective. It includes activities that consume resources, increase the cost of products or services but contribute zero value to the customer, and therefore should be eliminated. Waste Analysis is one of the core principles of Lean thinking that involves the identification, quantification, elimination, and prevention of waste. It is also one of the easiest ways an organization can improve its operations.

    Many Lean concepts and tools focus on continually identifying and eliminating waste. In fact, a primary objective of Lean and Kaizen methodologies is the complete removal of all forms of waste from the value stream, process or facility. For the majority of organizations, a focus on waste elimination in the early stages of the Lean journey proves to be a recommended strategy.

    Shigeo Shingo quote

    Waste takes many forms and can be found at any time and in any place. Additionally, the application of waste analysis is universally relevant across manufacturing, service, and office environments. Many classifications of waste exist, with the Eight Wastes model being a widely adopted framework across multiple industries. Categorizing waste into these eight forms makes them easier to identify and helps identify priorities for action.

    In the next sections, we’ll elaborate more the eight types of waste.

    The eight wastes
    Waste classifications
    There are many classifications of Lean waste

    Unnecessary Transportation

    Unnecessary transportation is the unnecessary movement of products, materials, supplies or information from one location to another. While a product is being transported, it is not being worked on and no value is being added to it. Moving things costs money, causes production and delivery delays, and may include the risk of loss or damage. Many companies now require their suppliers to be close to eliminate unnecessary transportation costs.

    1. Having the raw material storage area and the loading area at opposite ends.
    2. Storing office supplies far away from the office area.
    3. Moving documents for approval or seeking authorization.
    4. Moving patients from department to department.
    Improvement Ideas
    1. Find ways to reduce the distance between work areas.
    2. Relocate items to be closer to where the work is performed.
    3. Try to transport in bulk and in both directions.

    Unnecessary Movement

    Unnecessary movement, or wasted motion, refers to the movement performed by individuals that is not required and will not add value to the product or service. Not only does this consume time and energy, but it can also increase health and safety issues, impacting operational reliability. Unnecessary movement often results from inadequate workplace layout design or poor ergonomic considerations.

    Unnecessary Movement
    1. Moving too much or travelling farther than necessary to accomplish a task.
    2. Having to walk back and forth to get tools during maintenance.
    3. Having to bend or twist because of poor ergonomic design.
    4. Placing printers and photocopiers far away from offices.
    Improvement Ideas
    1. Evaluate the flow and layout to identify chances to streamline the process.
    2. Relocate the required tools at the point of use.
    3. Improve workplace ergonomics.


    Waiting refers to the idle time resulting from unnecessary delays within a process. It occurs when a product is not being processed or in transport, or when an individual is waiting for a work or service to get completed, and that costs time and money. Any time a product or an individual is waiting, there is no value being added, lead times are increased, and wasted time is transferred to the customer in the form of increased costs.

    1. Waiting for the maintenance department to repair a breakdown.
    2. Waiting for the changeover to be completed.
    3. Waiting for a slow machine to operate.
    4. Waiting for a preceding operator to complete his/her work.
    5. A customer waiting for a service.
    6. Waiting for a meeting to start.
    7. Experiencing poor computer system performance.
    Improvement Ideas
    1. Observe what keeps people waiting.
    2. Measure waiting time and make it visible.
    3. Allocate more resources at the bottleneck areas to increase their capacities.
    4. Improve scheduling and coordination.

    Excess of Inventory

    Excess inventory involves having more materials or information than what is actually needed. Inventory takes up valuable space, creates the need for more manpower and equipment, ties up money that can be used elsewhere, and has a significant impact on working capital and operational costs. While some inventory is necessary, most processes can be managed more efficiently to minimize excess inventory.

    Excess of Inventory
    Basic types of inventories
    1. Storing raw materials ahead of requirements.
    2. Expired, obsolete, and held-for-inspection inventory.
    3. Archiving documents that are not required and will never be used in the future.
    4. Storing computer programs that will never be used on hard drives.
    5. Keeping outdated and duplicated files.
    6. Giving people documentation they will never read.
    Improvement Ideas
    1. Keep track of inventory levels.
    2. Reduce unnecessary safety stocks.
    3. Avoid buying in bulk unless you are sure you will use all of it.
    4. Apply line balancing and Kanban.


    Over-production is producing greater quantities or making more of something than what is actually demanded or required by the customer. It is thought to be the worst of the eight wastes as it contributes in creating the other types of waste. Over-production consumes more materials, promotes a batch and queue system, increases lead times, hides quality problems, and may prevent other activities from taking place.

    1. Creating parts or information not needed by the downstream process.
    2. Producing faster than the downstream process or customer demand.
    3. Producing information that will never be used or sending reports that will never be looked at.
    4. Printing multiple versions of the same publication hoping that you will distribute all.
    Improvement Ideas
    1. Produce only what customers want and when they want it.
    2. Produce as close to the schedule as possible.
    3. Implement Pull and Kanban.


    Over-processing is processing beyond what the customer requires and providing more value than what they are willing to pay for. It happens when there is more work on the process than necessary. Over-processing may result from complex processes, poor product or service design, unclear requirements, or internal standards that do not align with true customer requirements.

    E.g., bureaucratic approval systems
    1. Repeating work which has already been done (mixing a mixed cup of coffee).
    2. Painting areas that are exposed to dirt or corrosion.
    3. Using tools that are more precise or using the wrong tool.
    4. Completing reports in a level of detail that is not required.
    5. Duplication of work and filling multiple forms with repeated data.
    Improvement Ideas
    1. Find ways to do less and to use less.
    2. With every task try just do it once.
    3. With every document try to just touch it once.
    4. Provide clear standards for every process.

    Defects and Errors

    Defects and errors occur when a product or service fails to fulfill its intended purpose, or when the production process does not complete perfectly right the first time. This waste is the most obvious type of waste and the easiest to relate. Whenever a defect occurs during a production process, extra costs are incurred as a result of scrapping or reworking the defective products. Moreover, if it conveyed to the customer, additional costs are incurred as a result of customer returns and negative reputation.

    Defects and Errors
    Defects are caused by errors in the process
    1. A manufacturing faulty part that requires rework or needs to be scrapped.
    2. Producing the wrong product.
    3. Delivering a product to the wrong destination.
    4. Not on time in full delivery.
    5. Typos and spelling mistakes in a resume.
    6. Missing information or incorrectly completing an application.
    7. Customer receives the wrong service or nothing at all.
    Improvement Ideas
    1. Find where the error occurs and analyze the root causes.
    2. Solve the problem as early as possible.
    3. Avoid multitasking and mind wandering.

    Unused Human Skills

    Not using the potential and creativity of employees and failing to involve them is a waste. Organizations employ individuals for the specific skills they possess, and it is wasteful not to leverage their many other skills and capabilities. Many companies recognize that their most valuable assets are their employees. It is only by exploiting the ideas and skills of employees that companies can reduce the other types of waste and enhance their overall performance.

    1. When employees are not effectively engaged in the process.
    2. When the right person is not available at the right place.
    3. When the person performing the work is overqualified.
    Improvement Ideas
    1. Make the most of brainstorming and other idea gathering techniques.
    2. Implement an idea system and encourage employees to make improvement suggestions.
    3. Ensure that the ideas and suggestions are well heard.
    4. Show respect and confidence for all by letting them solve their daily problems as owners.

    An easy way to remember the eight types of waste is with the acronym TIMWOODS, where each letter corresponds to one of the eight waste categories.

    Other Forms of Waste

    Beyond these eight wastes, other forms of waste may exist including the following.

    1. Wasted space as the customer will not pay for it.
    2. Wasted energy which is a hidden shared cost.
    3. Pollution where the producer is increasingly being made to pay for it.
    4. Excessive resources as they only increase costs and add no value.
    5. Capital waste (or wasted money). It is throwing money at problems instead of addressing the real root causes.
    6. Unclear communication, roles, responsibilities, and authority.
    7. Lack of training, motivation and empowerment.

    What’s Next?

    Identifying wastes is just the initial step; eliminating them is one of the fundamental objectives of the Lean methodology. The planning and execution of countermeasures must involve all relevant parties. There are many tools and techniques that are available to identify and eliminate waste effectively, including:

    1. Waste walks and Gemba walks.
    2. Waste recording forms and waste logs.
    3. Value stream mapping and opportunity flowcharts.
    4. 5S and visual management.
    5. Targeted Kaizen events.
    Waste analysis two phases

    Wrapping Up

    Waste creates no value and costs a lot of money. Limiting unnecessary waste brings efficiency and effectiveness to the existing processes, improves productivity, reduces lead times and defect rates and saves money. Ultimately, this results in products and services that better align with customer expectations. Remember that waste takes many forms in workplaces and offices, with eight distinct categories deserving special attention.

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