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The seven wastes of Lean are an integral part of Lean as developed and practiced by Toyota. “Waste” can be defined as any activity that does not add value to a customer. In the Lean framework, something can be considered a value-adding step if the customer is willing to pay for it, if the step transforms the product being produced, and if it’s done properly the first time.

In manufacturing a car, for example, a value-adding step would include attaching the door. The customer is, of course, willing to pay for a door and to have it attached properly. There can be a lot of waste associated with the simple action of attaching a door, though, and Lean manufacturers aim to reduce as much of it as possible.

The cost of waste reduces profit margins and drives up consumer costs, reduces quality, and decreases customer and staff satisfaction. Eliminating waste has many benefits, including higher-quality goods and services, improved delivery times, happier staff and customers, and competitive prices. 

Download this free eBook to learn about what the wastes are, why they matter, and how to get rid of them. 


The 7 Wastes of Lean [Free eBook]

  1. Motion

    Motion waste includes those movements (of machine or employee) which are more complicated or difficult than absolutely necessary. This kind of waste can cause harm to equipment, product, or employees.

  2. Inventory

    Inventory that doesn’t directly fulfill customer needs is excessive, and should be reduced to a level that’s supported by the reliability and consistency of a process or value stream. Excessive inventory is often the result a company producing or holding “just in case” inventories, built or purchased to protect against production downtime, production delays, poor quality, or other problems. These other problems need to be addressed so that an organization can reduce inventory. Otherwise, an organization will likely get in trouble by cutting inventories too much if they haven’t first increased the reliability of the supply chain.

    The problem with excess inventory is that it increases costs, reduces available storage space, can become damaged, the shelf-life can expire, and extra resources are needed to manage it.

  3. Waiting

    The waste of waiting includes any idle time caused by the asynchrony of two or more interdependent processes. Operators and equipment at one step of the process end up at a standstill waiting for the second process to catch up. Eliminating this waste makes your processes more efficient, saving you time and money.

  4. Defects

    The waste of defects includes quality errors that invariably cost you much more than you expect, as each defective product necessitates more work or replacement, wasting resources and materials, and can lead to lost customers.

  5. Overproduction

    This can be considered the worst of all the wastes because it leads to other wastes and hides the need for improvement. This waste occurs when production exceeds customer requirements, which in turn leads to high levels of inventory which, as you will see, hides many of the problem-areas within your organization. Your goal, therefore, should be to only make what is required when it is required.

  6. Transportation

    Transportation waste is the movement of materials that does not directly correspond to some value-adding process. This can be very costly for your business, as you must pay for the time and machines involved in this wasteful process. It should be minimized in order to reduce delays, reduce the risk of handling-induced damage and eliminate non value added process steps and costs.

  7. Overprocessing

    Overprocessing waste is putting more work into producing the product than the customer values. To eliminate this waste, your goal should be to only do the amount of processing which is both useful and necessary and no more.

Every employee in every organization has the ability to identify and eliminate waste in their work. Empowering staff to be change agents by providing them with the leadership, methodology, and tools they need to improve their work results in a sustainable culture of continuous improvement.