Definitions, Tools & Techniques:


Introduction to Waste

Lean thinking aims at enhancing value for the customer by improving and smoothing the process flow and eliminating waste.  

Waste is any activity that adds cost or time but does not add value. Waste exists in all areas of work, at all levels in the organization and in manufacturing, process and service industries. 

The identification and elimination of waste is the central focus of a Lean management system. 

For waste elimination to be successful, it is imperative that all employees be trained to identify and eliminate waste from their work processes and operations.


Eight Types of Waste

The eight types of waste which can be found in an organization are illustrated below.

Waste of Waiting

  • Definition - Idle time incurred as a result of waiting for another process, machine, tool, materials or information
  • Examples - Email queues; waiting to be served; waiting for instructions, approvals, information or decision; seeking clarifications (due to unclear communications); equipment/system downtime; out-of-stock; person waiting for another person; person waiting for machine; machine waiting for person

Waste of Transportation

  • Definition - Wasted effort in moving from one place to another; wasted effort in transporting materials, work-in-progress and finished goods into or out of storage, or between processes
  • Examples - Poor office/plant layouts and workplace organization; commuting to multiple sites outside of walking distance; double handling; sub-optimal dispatch or routing; multiple storage locations; inflexible conveying systems

Waste of Motion

  • Definition - Extra physical/mental motion that does not add value to the product or service
  • Examples - Searching for information in the internet, intranet or shared drive; searching for tools or files; lack of or sub-optimal standard operating procedures (SOP); reaching, bending or unnecessary motion due to poor ergonomics and office layout

Waste of Over-processing

  • Definition - Adding excess value to the product or service when the customer does not require it
  • Examples - Multiple formats for the same information; redundant approvals (checkers checking on checkers); excessive documentation; providing higher quality than is necessary; unnecessary part/system replacement

Waste of Defects 

  • Definition - Not meeting customer expectations the "first" time; abortive work, reworking or correcting work
  • Examples - Data entry errors, mistakes, rework, repairs or replacements; repeat details on forms; poor process controls; managing subcontractors to correct mistakes; incorrect schedules or information; inadequate trials before full implementation; lost or damaged goods; extra human resources to inspect, rework or repair

Waste of Overproduction

  • Definition - Producing more than what the customer needs; producing faster than the customer requires it
  • Examples - Creating/printing reports that no one needs/uses; exceeding customer needs ("gold-plating"); exceeding scope of agreement; purchasing items before they are needed; inventory stockpiling or building ahead of schedule; unbalanced material flow

Waste of Inventory

  • Definition - Building or storing extra products or services the customer has not  requested
  • Examples - Application forms which require duplicated or too much information which are not needed for processing; large number of equipment due to low equipment utilization; extra raw materials, work-in-progress or finished goods; material with out-dated shelf life; massive rework campaigns when problems surface; poor inventory management technique - FILO instead of FIFO

Waste of Intellect

  • Definition - Not utilizing the time and talents of people
  • Examples - Not engaging or listening to employees in finding solutions; lack of information or best practice sharing across the organization; mismatched work functions with skill sets

"There is nothing so useless as doing efficiently that which should not be done at all."

Peter Drucker

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