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What Are The 8 Wastes of Lean?

Updated: Oct 7, 2021

Identifying and Eliminating the 8 Types of Wastes From Your Organization


Why we should care about the 8 Wastes of Lean?

There's a name for all of those frustrations, interruptions, and annoyances that get in the way of us doing our best work. And that name is "Waste". Most of us understand waste to be physical waste or scraps of wood on the floor of a wood shop or food that's gone bad in the fridge. In any organization, identifying and eliminating process waste is a cornerstone of Lean. In a process improvement project, identifying the 8 wastes in our own processes is one of the main techniques to drive to massive leaps in efficiency. The results - once the waste is eliminated - can be shocking!

Make no mistake, there will always be some amount of waste in every process and the skill is learning first how to see it...and then to minimize or eliminate it! The trick is that you can only eliminate it if you can see it. And process waste is clever. It hides itself in every nook and cranny of the process camouflaging itself as critical or necessary. And therein lies the problem!

We could either examine our process for all of the thousands of specific types of waste, OR we can learn the 8 categories of waste that all waste falls into. This makes it much easier to recognize and then get rid of it. So, here we are. The 8 Wastes of Lean are;

  1. Defects

  2. Overproduction

  3. Waiting

  4. Non-Utilized Talent

  5. Transportation

  6. Inventory

  7. Motion

  8. Extra-Processing

Waste Type 1; Defects

Examples of defects could be rejects, mistakes, errors, repairs, and rework. Defects always require some amount of additional attention, as they normally come at a tremendous cost to companies and organizations.

Waste Type 2; Overproduction

This is simply creating something before it’s needed. Overproduction is connected to the other 7 wastes, as it tends to amplify them in all scenarios. In the worst cases, overproduction can lead to lower quality and lower productivity and can make it significantly more difficult to identify defects.

Waste Type 3; Waiting

This waste is simple to understand, and could mean waiting for anything from parts or components to waiting for approvals and decisions. There is lots of waiting that can be found in transitions between positions, as well as waiting on the front office, and produces products not being usefully serviced or processed simply waiting on the next step.

Waste Type 4; Non-Utilized Talent

Non-utilized talents can also be classified as non-use, misuse, or underutilization of human resources. A company or organization can get the most out of its people where the people can apply their strengths most often. The strongest organizations we’ve worked with strive to unlock the full potential of the people doing the work, and where everyone can contribute to varying degrees.

Waste Type 5; Transportation

This refers to moving something through the process. Transportation adds no tangible value, and is only a cost to the company or organization. Transportation can be physical (like moving a product on a truck or airplane), but can also be digital (sending information via email).

Waste Type 6; Motion

Where transportation is the movement of materials or goods, motion refers to unnecessary movement of people. For example, walking an extra ten steps from one station to the next, when they could be moved closer together. This is a good example of a waste that at a glance may seem harmless, but spread out over months and years come to miles of wasted motion.

Waste Type 7; Inventory

Inventory waste is simply the unnecessary surplus of inventory. Sometimes this waste is also referred to as a working queue. Inventory can be not just physical objects, but also work waiting to be done or an inbox of unread emails. All of these contribute to poor flow, and can ultimately lead to unused material costs.

Waste Type 8; Extra-Processing

This waste describes when complex methods are used when a simpler, less-complex method would do. This is another waste that can amplify any of the other wastes, because it creates more time and more steps to deal with already-complex issues. Examples could be over-polishing parts, sorting files that don’t need sorting, excessive cleaning or excessive data collection.

Pro Tip! A simple way to remember the 8 Wastes is to use an acronym. The most common are DOWNTIME and TIM WOODS, each containing the initials of a type of waste. In the case of TIM WOODS, the second “O” is for “over-processing” instead of “extra-processing”, and the “S” stands for “skills-unused” instead of “non-utilized talent”.

One thing to know about waste is that it is fantastic at camouflage and blends really well into our processes.

Waste Calculation

When you track it and measure it, you'll quickly see this seemingly harmless little bit of waste multiples over weeks, months, and years. It sucks the dollars out of your profit and the precious time and energy out of employees. Below is a real-life calculation from an organization who identified waste in the seemingly innocuous task of walking back-and-forth from the printer...

Sometimes, waste is SO embedded in our processes, that visualizing it on a process map is the best way to SEE it! It can be especially challenging if the person searching for the waste has been in that position and that environment for a very long time. Therefore, a crucial part of identifying waste is to first map out the process you are focusing on, giving the whole team an actual visual of the process

flow. In Cannsult's 8 waste course, we walk you through a real-life example from a government agency working to find waste in their job posting process. Our Lean Six Sigma Master Black Belts helped them put together a process map, where the team worked with them identified waste on the physical map (spoiler alert! Every stickie dot, pink stickie and purple stickie indicates waste!).