page contents

Wastes | Introduction…

In Lean one of the intentions is to eliminate waste, so to eliminate waste we must first understand what waste is and how to identify it.

What is waste? 

Waste is anything which is in excess of what is needed to meet customer requirements. In a process each step can be classified one of three ways:

  1. Value Added – What the customer would pay
  2. Non-Value Add (waste) – Adds cost, but not value (The customer wouldn’t pay for it)
  3. Business-Value Add – Those items which a customer wouldn’t pay but is determined necessary from a business perspective

Commonly there are 8 wastes (up from the previous 7 to include skills or non-utilised talent).  There are a couple of acronyms to remember the wastes by:


It is the DOWNTIME acronym that we will walk through below.



Be-careful with the classification of Business Value-Add. When reviewing processes attempt to limit and heavily question the validity of items which fall into this category. Often they are not necessary of the business or even regulatory when probed a little harder.

The 8 Lean Wastes

Waste 1Defects

A defect is simply something which is not performing/presenting how it should. A defect is also identified as re-work within a process, so failure to complete right first time. Defects can be caused in a range of ways by the operator, the machinery/technology, materials, or the method which is being deployed.

Examples of Defect wastes:

  • Products / service with faults i.e.
    • A handbag with a catch that doesn’t close
    • A broadband line installed but working intermittently
  • Errors on the completion of forms i.e.
    • The recording of customers names incorrectly on holiday booking
    • Address details missed off of insurance form
  • Failure demand (the demand an organisation self-generates) i.e.
    • Contacts from customers to chase call back

How do we tackle the Defect waste?

It is important with defects that you analyse the actual root causes to prevent the defect from reoccurring. Unless the root cause is eliminated the defect will re-appear.

Waste 2 – Overproduction

Overproduction is where we produce more than is required to deliver for the customer requirements, either in volume, timing or speed. This applies as much to the services sector as it does to manufacturing. Whilst time and resources are devoted to over delivering through this waste other potentially more valuable items are being denied additional resources. Therefore, the overproduction waste has the ability to cause twice the pain.

Examples of Overproduction wastes:

  • Producing sooner than required i.e.
    • Provision of a new broadband line 10 days ahead of schedule (no revenue is delivered for these 10 days)
  • Producing faster or greater quantities than required by the customer
    • Excess printing or filling
  • Excessive preventative maintenance (the key term here is excessive as preventative maintenance can play a key role in an improvement programme)

How do we tackle the Overproduction waste?

Adhere to ‘Just in Time’ approach and the Lean ‘Pull’ principle to deliver what the customer wants when they want it.

Waste 3 – Waiting

Waiting can be one of the more obvious wastes – just think of waiting in line at the supermarket or in a queue for your contact to be answered. However, waiting can also be relatively hidden in process delays. This can sometimes feel like a vacuum for the customer waiting on an answer, think of a mortgage application.

Examples of Waiting wastes:

  • People, Teams, Machines, Parts etc that have to wait for a task or activity to be completed examples
    • Batches awaiting return
    • Waiting for a spare part to return
    • Waiting for a response from a supervisor before you can respond to a customer
  • Waiting to get through to a contact centre

How do we tackle Waiting waste?

Greater planning can avoid unnecessary waiting – consider peak demands or average speed of responses. This aligns the capacity (resources) to the demand (customer requirements).

Waste 4 – Non-Utilised Talent

Non-Utilised Talent is the poor deployment of our human capital – the people resources we have. This waste is particularly frustrating for employees, as they are either under deployed, or over deployed. Both can have significant negative impacts not just on performance but on the engagement of our key assets.

Examples of Non-Utilised Talent wastes:

  • Low utilisation of resources
  • Mix-match of skills sets i.e.
    • Assigning someone without data skills to produce management information reports
    • Placing advisers on calls for which they are not trained or limited trained
  • Not fully leveraging ones capability

How do we tackle the Non-Utilised Talent waste?

As with waiting waste non-utilised talent can be avoided through better scheduling so aligning capacity with demand.

In addition, understanding the skills of our people (through skills matrices) and their behavioural traits can ensure we are deploying our people on the right tasks.

Waste 5 – Transport

Transport waste – other than perhaps being stuck – waiting – may not on the face of it appear to be waste. After all if your organisation has more than one site then surely elements of transport are required? That might be so, but the question here is would a customer pay for that and invariably the answer is no. Consequently, transport is waste.

Examples of Transport wastes:

  • Travelling between locations
  • Transitioning items in and out if storage
    • Parts within a manufacturing setting or
    • Files within a services setting
  • Transporting items across teams

In addition to the natural waste with transportation there is an increased likelihood of information being lost or mis-placed which can create additional costs and customer dissatisfaction.


How do we tackle the Transport waste?

Work to minimise transport requirements – tele-conferencing etc can be deployed to support, or co-location of key teams. In addition, look to organise the physical layout within locations to avoid the amount of transportation.

Waste 6 – Inventory

The inventory waste relates to procuring more items than are required or excessive work in progress (WIP). Inventory waste ties up finances and limits cash flow which has the ability to de-stabilise an organisation. Excessive inventory can also be a major cause of longer lead times.

When a FTSE 100 supermarket implemented a Lean approach the holding of stock in store warehouses reduced dramatically – however the volume of out of stocks reduced significantly. This may sound counter intuitive but being able to clearly see what was available, everything in its place and better forecasting to align to customer demand had a significant impact. This is actually the best deployment of Lean we have seen.

Examples of Inventory wastes

  • Excessive storage facilities – and the costs – virtual or physical
  • Unnecessarily high levels of stock
  • Outstanding work activities
  • Wastage – i.e. First in First Out (FIFO) principle not applied

How do we tackle Inventory waste?

  1. Refine inventory based on customer demand
  2. Keep a track and log of inventory
  3. Implements 5s within the workplace
  4. Implement inventory controls
  5. Implement Kanban approach
  6. Work towards single piece flow

Waste 7 Motion

The Motion waste is similar to Transport waste and is sometimes confused. Motion refers to the movement within a process step, whether that be people, equipment or documents.

Examples of Motion wastes:

  • Moving back and forth to opposite ends of a room to (or moving full stop) i.e.
    • to pick up information from one part to another
    • Collecting tools
  • Searching for equipment or accessories
  • More convoluted steps on a keyboard – these can be cut down by shortcuts if used often

How do we tackle Motion waste?

Implement 5s within the workplace. This will ensure everything has a place and is in it’s place designed in such a way to drive down unnecessary motion.

Waste 8 Extra Processing

Extra-processing really refers to doing more than is required to meet the customer requirements. There could be good argument to do something that delights our customers, but on the whole extra-processing from a waste sense is just that – it’s not require and often not particularly wanted.

Examples of Extra Processing wastes:

  • Extra cleaning i.e. vacuuming twice a week when the contract is once per week
  • Resolving quality errors which are in tolerance and have no material impact on the customer requirements
  • Unnecessarily long reports (or flowery language in conversation!)

How do we tackle Extra Processing waste?

Have in place standards for every process and ensure you follow what the customer requires. If something feels unnecessary check, as you may just find out your customer wonders why you do it also!



Waste is literally all around us – not all easily removable but there nonetheless. However, to see the obvious we sometimes need to take a step back and change our frame of reference. This is sometimes refereed to as ‘Muda-specs (Muda Japanese for waste) or simply learning to see.

Be mindful that some colleagues may need more encouragement or support than others to start to shift the mind-set and open up to see the inherent waste around them.

8 Wastes FAQ’S

Why eliminate waste?
Waste adds cost but does not add any value for the customer (and in some cases not for the business or employees either)

The continual removing of waste from a process will eventually lead to a leaner and faster process which better serves the customer.

What are the benefits of removing waste?
  1. Deliver more efficient processes for the customer
  2. Reduce unnecessary costs
  3. Improve Employee satisfaction as they work on more value added processes
What is Muda, Mura and Muri?
Muda, Mura and Muri are Japanese terms which all relate to wastes as follows:

  1. Muda – is the Japanese term for Waste. This is anything in the process that does not add value from the customers’ perspective and a central pillar of Lean is to remove waste
  2. Mura – specifically this is to do with the unevenness or the variation within a process
  3. Muri – specifically this is to do with overburden
An acronym for the 8 lean wastes see also DOWNTIME. TIMWOODS stands for:

  • Transport
  • Inventory
  • Motion
  • Waiting
  • Over-Production
  • Over-Processing
  • Defects
  • Skills

Skills are an addition to the original 7 wastes

The full | Lean A-Z Glossary

8 Lean Wastes

Continue learning…

Join Our email list

Join the InvisibleConsultant email list today for support direct to your inbox. Don’t delay Level up Your Capability today.


Though we hope you will find our material helpful, reliance on this material and any related content is at your sole risk. assumes no responsibility for any errors or damages arising.


Pin It on Pinterest