Waste 101

No More Waste

All things aside, waste reduction is the main ingredient to lean practices. No matter how you break it down if you can’t identify and evaluate waste properly, you can’t establish a platform to improve upon. It’s a continuous process to target waste and eliminate non-value-adding value, but this ultimately how you increase the value of your goods and services.

Lean implementers often turn to one of the now several waste categories to help separate the specific targets that fit in their facility. Several mnemonics have been used like TIMWOOD and NOW TIME, but these only work if you understand what “Transportation” waste is and how you go about identifying it. There are essentially seven wastes (muda) that were originally laid out by the father of the Toyota Production System; Taiichi Ohno.

There has since been various interpretations and addition to the categories, but the seven original waste categories are what get the attention of most organizations as they establish their lean culture. Other than the fact that they fit into easy to remember mnemonics, how much do we really know about each category? Lets break them down individually.

The Seven Deadly Wastes of Lean


The waste of transportation focuses on the actual transporting of parts and materials around your facility. This could be done with a forklift, a truck or any piece of equipment used to maneuver product around the facility. This particular waste is an ineffective use of both time and energy that has the potential to cause damage to your products and people. Causes of transportation waste can be linked to overproduction, large batches and a poor layout of the facility.

You can also think of it as any unnecessary movement of goods, people, or equipment between processes. Other causes of transportation waste can be attributed to a lack of understanding of the actual process flow and equipment being spaced out too far.


The waste of inventory can be concentrated on all of that Work in Progress (WIP) and stock that is sitting around costing you money. This waste is addressed in the lean principle Just in Time, producing what they want when they want it, rather than have an overflowing warehouse full of product. Anytime you have more inventory than needed for the job, you have inventory waste.

Causes of unnecessary inventory can be attributed to the following

  • Large safety stocks
  • Unbalanced workloads
  • Suppliers providing raw materials
  • The complexity of the product

waste of motionMOTION

The unnecessary motion or movement of goods, people or equipment within the process is waste motion. This is different than transportation because this occurs during the process rather than between the process. Think of it as any motion of a person and or equipment that does no add value to the product or service. When you observe someone at work and you see them having to constantly move awkwardly or extend their body to perform a task, that is waste!

Causes of wasteful motion:

  • Poor workstation design-having to constantly bend, stretch or maneuver around to complete a normal task
  • Poor workplace organization
  • Large batch sizes
  • Poor design methods that require transferring of one hand to the other


This waste is exactly what it sounds like– waiting. Whether you waiting around for a co-worker, machine, product or information, the fact is you’re waiting. In some instances the majority of your day or even goods for that matter are spent waiting. Every time you can eliminate waiting time from your day, you are increasing your efficiency level.

Some causes of waiting waste are:

  • Unbalanced workload
  • Unplanned maintenance
  • Extended set-up times
  • Upstream quality issues


This waste occurs anytime more work is done on a particular item than is required by the consumer. If your not adding value in the customers’ perspective then your just creating waste. This could also include using components that are more complex, expensive to operate, higher quality and/or are just simply not necessary to the process.

Some basic causes to over-processing are:

  • Undefined customer requirements
  • Poor communication
  • Changes in product without changes in the process
  • Redundant approval process
  • Simply having to provide more information than needed


This category of waste is also pretty self explanatory. It occurs anytime more product is produced than is required at the time by the customer or before the customer needs it, causing it to sit around and collect dust. Inventory costs money to make, costs money to store, costs money to transport. These costs can begin to add up quickly if over-production continues to be an issue in your facility. Many organizations have adopted the Just In Time Lean principle to combat over-production issues and had a big success in doing so.

Other causes of over-production:


This particular category of waste has the potential to be the most expensive if your not on top of it. The cost of the defect is only a small part of the overall cost. The product or service has to be reworked, often times at the site of the customer depending on the issue, you have extra paperwork to fill out and then of course the time it takes to figure out how to not have it happen again. You’ve lost time it took to originally produce the good, now you have to use time you could’ve spent on new product, fixing and brainstorming replacements. Some estimate that it takes ten times more capital to replace or fix a defective product than it did to originally produce it in the first place.

Causes that lead to defect waste:

  • Poor process control
  • Bad quality control
  • Inefficient maintenance process
  • Poor training methods
  • Not understanding customer needs

Additional Resources