Lean Thinking and the Eight Sources of Waste

The phrase “waste not, want not” is incredibly accurate when applied to organisations. Even in the best run companies, waste is everywhere.

Some Lean practitioners use the analogy of putting on their waste goggles, when they do this, they say they see waste everywhere!

  • Use of more raw materials than needed
  • Rework-making mistakes
  • Using more space than you should
  • Excess inventory
  • Taking too long to develop and produce your services
  • Using more equipment than necessary
  • Using too many people.


Muda is the Japanese name for waste and waste is all around you, in the company you work in, in your own company and in your everyday life.

You waste your time in the queue at the post office or bank, you waste your time in traffic, you waste your time and energy looking for things in your office, throwing things out of your cupboard and fridge because they are past their sell by date is waste!

Lean talks of eight types of waste

1. Transport-Movement of product or materials between transformational operations. More movement= more waste. Poor layouts, whether its a factory floor, office or desk.

2. Waiting-Any time that an employee (or you) is idle is waste. Poor paperwork, lack of instruction, poor workloads etc.

3. Overproduction-Producing more than the customer wants.-inventory costs, transport, manpower, raw materials costs etc etc.

4. Defects- Anything that fails to meet specification. Any process that fails to transform/alter the product/service in some way is considered non-value added. However, some non value adding processes are sometimes a requirement.

5. Inventory- Inventory is non-value added. It may be needed but is waste nonetheless. It consumes finances, space etc and is at risk of becoming damaged or obsolete. Food for instance could spoil, some products could become obsolete. It can also cover up other inefficiencies such as inefficient processes and bad work practices.

6. Motion-Any movement of a person that does not add value is waste. Walking is the obvious one but it also includes bending, lifting, twisting, reaching etc.

7. Over processing (sometimes called extra processing) This is talking about any process that does not add value to the product. So things like, protective packaging between processes or say fettling after galvanising.

8. Unexploited knowledge/intelligence-Not using the knowledge/ability of people within the business.