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Examples of the 8 Wastes of Lean in Everyday Life

Posted by Maggie Millard

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Nov 10, 2022 11:10:19 AM

waste.pngIf you are striving to become a Lean organization, waste elimination is probably near the top of your list. In fact, Lean practitioners have identified very specific types of waste, known collectively as the 8 Wastes of Lean. Certain types of waste are really easy to spot and fix, while others can remain unnoticed. We thought it might be helpful to share some practical examples of how each type of waste occurs in business and in the larger world.


8 wastes of Lean infographic


1. Defects/Mistakes

The other day, I ordered a taco at the local taqueria. I specifically asked for no guacamole because I really hate guacamole. Sadly, someone wasn’t paying attention, so my taco arrived fully guacamole laden. When I pointed out the error, the server tossed the taco in the garbage and set the cook to work on a new one. This is a perfect example of how mistakes cause waste. Here are a few more:

  • Software with bugs that has to be re-coded
  • Misdiagnoses in healthcare that lead to unnecessary tests or treatment
  • Products that are shipped to the wrong address
  • Manufactured items that don’t meet the customer’s specifications
  • Bad data entry
  • Information that isn't communicated effectively or well understood

2. Waiting

The waste of waiting takes two common forms. People and processes often must wait because the next step in the process isn’t ready for them yet (waiting in line at a store, for example), or they are waiting because they don’t have the inputs necessary to act.

  • QA engineers waiting for code to be developed
  • Emergency room patients waiting for test results
  • Landscapers waiting for sod to be delivered
  • Airplanes waiting for a gate to open up

Free eBook: Guide to the 8 Wastes of Lean

3. Transportation

Not all transportation is waste, of course, but the unnecessary movement of people, products, parts, or other items adds expense and risk to processes without adding value. Examples of the waste of transportation include:

  • Sending unsold products from the store back to the warehouse
  • Ordering parts or products from distant suppliers when closer options are available
  • Moving patients from one department to another in a hospital
  • Moving equipment from one construction site to another

4. Motion

Motion is similar to transportation, but it involves unnecessary activities within the workspace. For example, I prefer the grocery store near my house that is set up, so the clerk removes an item from the basket and scans it, to the one that requires me to first move the item to the conveyor belt. It isn’t that I’m lazy, it just doesn’t make sense to have two people handle and move each item when it can be done just as effectively by one. Here are a few more examples:

  • Software that requires 10 clicks to get to the screen you want
  • Workers searching for missing tools or office supplies
  • Printers and other equipment that are not conveniently located
  • Inadequately stocked examination rooms

5. Overproduction

These days, just about everyone is familiar with just-in-time manufacturing and inventory management. Businesses are careful not to create products before there is demand, with good reason. Overproduction unnecessarily ties up resources and increases the likelihood of inventory and transportation waste.

  • Huge meals in restaurants
  • Hospitals with more beds than the community needs
  • Commuter trains with more cars than necessary
  • Overstaffed retail stores
  • Too many meetings or the wrong people in meetings

6. Inventory

The wastes of inventory and overproduction go hand in hand. If a product is overproduced, it has to be stored somewhere, tying up space and requiring additional tracking and management. Depending on where the inventory is stored, it can also lead to wasted transportation and motion. Besides the obvious idea of unsold products sitting in a warehouse, the waste of inventory can be found in lots of places:

  • Shelves of unused office supplies
  • Too much bedside equipment in a hospital
  • Stacks of promotional literature or pre-printed forms
  • Perishable items that will go bad before they are used or sold
  • Applications on your desktop that you never use

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7. Over-processing

When Lean practitioners talk about over-processing, we are talking about adding more complexity to a product, task, or process than is necessary to get the desired value. Over-processing is not just a problem in manufacturing. It happens in every sector. Here’s what it looks like:

  • Software features that no one ever uses
  • An MRI when an X-ray would suffice
  • Identical data that is entered in more than one place on a form of software tool
  • Complex purchasing processes with multiple approval levels

8. Human Potential

Perhaps the most damaging of all is the waste of human potential. Wasted human potential can lead to employee turnover, increased absenteeism, and disengagement. It happens when:

  • Time is spent correcting errors or responding to emergencies
  • Employees do not have the opportunity to learn new skills or utilize hidden ones
  • Employees are not involved in process improvement
  • Workers are not given the chance to advance within the company

Here’s the good news about waste. Every time you identify waste within your organization, you have found an opportunity for improvement. Reducing any of the 8 wastes of Lean can have a significant impact on business results.

Topics: Lean, Daily Lean Management, Lean Healthcare

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