The 8 Wastes

Lean, as stated many times, is all about elimination of waste. This cannot be overstated. There will be areas where waste as described or defined will be obvious, there are however many more subtle and sometimes not openly obvious wastes that exist in the workplace. When highlighted some become obvious, others do not to any great degree. The implications are often not fully understood, they are wastes within the process nevertheless.


From a Lean perspective waste is broken down and categorised in a particular way to support both its identification and elimination. The greater understanding the workforce has about identification, the greater chance of effective elimination.

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Transport as a waste covers many areas and each organisation is quite likely to have its own unique transport issues. The key is to identify what is necessary and what is not. If necessary, can it be improved? In a nutshell, defining transport as a waste – identify any excessive or unnecessary transport that is carried out during the task or process. Take steps to reduce or remove it.

Resource is regarded as relatively new to the collective of wastes. Identifying it and eliminating wasted resource is no less important than addressing all the other wastes that exist in the workplace. Understanding skill sets and ensuring the workforce’s versatility and flexibility is essential if process abnormalities are to be addressed quickly and efficiently. Ensuring you have the right people in the right place, raising the right ideas, at the right time really matters.

Inventory is money. Identification of what is actually needed in a work area based on good data analysis and problem solving is essential to be able to reduce the inventory to an optimum standard. When an optimum level has been identified it is then about creating the standard and maintaining that particular level and having the resolution and discipline to maintain these standards. Having carefully understood the level of inventory, that allows the work activity to take place and supports the ease of flow, it is paramount to any organisation that wants to embark on a Lean journey.

Motion is everywhere in thee workplace, much of it unnecessary. The unnecessary but frequent movements employees make that add no value to the process. That is motion as a waste. The poorly organised process where the operative is forced to work further than necessary in order to complete the task. Take the need to walk around, the efficiency of an area will improve.

Waiting comes in many forms but probably the most negative thing that comes out of this particular waste is that it breeds cynicism within the workforce.

The waste of waiting is covered by criteria such as: Waiting for tools; Waiting for the process to start; Waiting for instructions; Waiting for the stores; Waiting for forklift trucks or other vehicles; Waiting for paperwork; Waiting for signatures or authorisation; and waiting, often not aware of why.

Over Processing is defined as doing more than is actually required by the paying customer; over processing of a product does certainly conflict with the KANO model, a waste nevertheless, with regard to giving the customer the ‘delighter’ that will entice them back for future business. There is a fine line between providing delighters and building excess waste into a process. The customer must not be overlooked and has to be taken into account at every level; it is in fact a very fine dividing line between doing too much, just enough or not enough and failing the customer.

Over Production is very apparent in a manufacturing environment. It ties in closely and comes hand in hand with the waste of excess inventory. Over production is producing more than is required at that point in time.

Defects or manufacturing items that require rework or providing services that will require revisiting is possibly the worst waste of all. As a waste it stands on its own but it is highly likely to incorporate at least one or more of all the above wastes. To create a defect and not build in quality will only mean a required return to the task and the job will be carried out at least twice. This will be almost certainly to the detriment and cost of additional spare parts and labour.