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How to Recognize and Resolve the 7 Wastes of Lean

Posted by Maggie Millard

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Feb 19, 2015 6:16:00 AM

7_wastes_of_LeanThe guiding principle of the Lean business process methodology is the elimination of waste. Given that waste reduction is the primary objective, it makes sense that Lean practitioners have identified seven very specific types of waste, sometimes called, “The 7 Deadly Wastes of Lean.” Many of the tools developed for Lean organizations are precisely designed to help mitigate the various types of waste. 


Overproduction is the result of creating something before it is truly needed. This is a very common form of waste and one that can be caused by poor production planning and control or incentives that unintentionally reward overproduction. Lean organizations address overproduction by:

  • Understanding Takt Time to pace production so that it is aligned with customer demand
  • Implementing a pull system, Kanban, to control the manufacturing process
  • Making production set up more efficient so that smaller batches can be produced


Waiting happens when processes are out of sync with each other and one resource stands idle while waiting for input from another. Wait time results in lost capacity and efficiency and it increases the lead time to the customer while failing to add any value. In response, Lean organizations:

  • Design processes to have a Continuous Flow with minimal or no buffers between steps
  • Implement Standard Work to make sure that a consistent method is used for each activity


The waste of transport includes any unnecessary movement of raw materials, works-in-progress or finished products. Although some transport is usually necessary, minimizing the time and cost associated with it are important goals of Lean. This can be aided by:

  • Value Stream Mapping that includes a sequential flow from raw materials to products delivered to the customer
  • Solving the other wastes of overproduction and inventory


While transport addresses the unnecessary movement of goods, motion addresses the unnecessary movement of people. Motion can be minimized by:

  • Adopting the 5S technique for a well-organized workplace with visual controls
  • Using Value Stream Mapping and Gemba Walks to identify potentially more efficient processes and arrangements of equipment and people

Over Processing

Over processing includes any activity that provides no additional value to a product or service.  In many cases, over processing happens when a single process could be combined with another, or eliminated completely. Identification of over processing often involves;

  • Reviewing product specifications to make sure they are aligned with customer requirements
  • Identifying opportunities for simplification in the production process


Inventory waste occurs when the supply of raw goods, works-in-progress or finished products exceeds the immediate demand.  It is often the result of overproduction at some point in the process. To address it, Lean practitioners:

  • Adopt a just-in-time approach to sourcing raw materials
  • Focus on Continuous Flow to smooth the production process
  • Address overproduction


Products that are unusable or those that require rework drive up costs both in wasted materials and labor.  Organizations that are committed to continuous improvement seek to minimize defect by:

  • Conducting Root Cause Analysis to uncover and address the reason for particular defects
  • Designing processes that detect substandard works-in-progress
  • Ensuring that Standard Work procedures are being consistently applied

Although the 7 wastes of Lean were developed for, and initially applied within, manufacturing organizations, variations can be found in almost any type of business. It makes sense for customer value driven organizations to closely examine all processes and procedures with an eye toward identifying and eliminating waste in whatever form it takes.


The 7 Wastes of Lean [Free eBook]



Topics: Lean

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