7 Types of Waste to Eliminate with Lean Processes March 27 2015

Do you know how much money your company is throwing away on a daily basis? Between the physical labor and time spent, the unnecessary materials wasted, and the resources misused to complete extraneous tasks, it is crucial for you to identify the waste in your business.

That is the entire philosophy behind lean manufacturing.

The resources, time, and materials spent that are not bringing value to customers are all costing you, and the identification and elimination of which could be the key to overall the growth of your organization.

This educational clip from Lean U on YouTube gives a lot of examples of specific – and sometimes shocking! – instances of waste that may be easily eliminated through the implementation of lean practices.


We have summarized the principle types of waste discussed here:

1. Transportation – This refers to the excessive movement of people, information, and materials. For example, the physical time spent an employee spends walking a document from one floor to another for delivery could easily be streamlined though the utilization of modern technologies, such as e-mail or a communication and productivity application, such as Asana or Evernote. Additionally, there would be materials saved by not printing out the document before approval.

2. Waiting – Periods of inactivity when waiting for people, information, and materials are all big culprits behind profit losses. Paying an employee to sit and wait for someone else to complete a task in order to do their own job can lead to a lot of monetary waste. Instead, each employee should have a set of organizational tasks to complete during lapses of activity. This will ensure that productivity is optimal, and your organizational system is being upheld.

3. Motion – The physical movement of people that does not add value to your product should be taken into consideration, as well. Every move each individual on the floor makes should be refocused into a productive action. Adding more steps to a task than necessary will slow down production and your employees themselves, adding to the amount of money spent on labor.

4. Inventory – Raw materials, works in process, and warehouses full of finished goods don't make your company money. The amount of space the materials and goods are taking up limits productivity in your workspace. Take a good, hard look at your sales records and trends, and find what may be eliminated to free up space for things that will sell and for production to take place.

5. Over-processing – Adding a feature that consumes resources and materials that your customers don't care about does not necessarily add value to your product. You are simply doing more work to a product than your customer values. Make sure you know what your customer wants from you and your product.

6. Defects – Product and paperwork errors are highly underestimated forms of waste, especially in an office setting. The key is to discover where are they happening, what is root cause, and how your team will work together to eliminate these errors.

7. Over-production – It can be easy to get overzealous with your production processes when business starts to pick up. However, creating more product sooner than your customer needs will only lead to a back-up somewhere further down the assembly line, and it will also present more time wasted waiting (see point #2). Instead, keep your efforts tight, and watch your sales trends for guidance on production speed.

The real key to success in a lean environment is enacting a culture change within your organization. Opening up communication with your team to improve processes and taking their feedback into consideration will promote a culture dedicated to continuous improvement.

Other posts you may find interesting:

How Lean Thinking Will Transform Your Workplace into a Safer, More Satisfying Environment

Top Companies Using 5S