As more and more companies start to see how lean thinking can be used as a means of reducing waste, the fundamental elements of the lean process, capturing waste, understanding your business through process analysis (such as value stream mapping) and improvement techniques such as Plan, Do Check Act become ever more valueable.

All processes have to be examined in lean thinking ensuring the said process adds value to both the customer and the key function of the business or organisation, but some are not ‘helpful’ they do not add any value and are considered ‘waste’.

Central to lean process is the elimination of waste and within the concept of ‘lean’ there are 7 identified wastes. Initially they were identified as part of Toyota’s Production System, which is sometimes referred to as TPS.

The 7 Wastes


Overproduction is not simply producing too many items, it is about engaging more resources than are actually required, to ensure that the customer’s order can be fulfilled. As a result, the resources used are squandered. Overproduction of goods also requires storage facilities (if too many goods have been produced) and the goods need to be kept in good condition, which will require space, staffing hours and possibly heating etc.

Any unnecessary transporting of goods

When goods are moved they can be damaged or lost or even delayed in transit, so there is a risk with transportation that costs will be incurred that have to be born by the company, not by the customer. Transporting goods usually uses up resources, so again there is a knock on effect with regard to transport. As such any unnecessary transportation should be viewed as wasteful. Remember that transportation does not always mean moving goods from one site to another it can mean movement within a factory or office as as well.


Inventory is also known as stock, work that is currently in progress or any finished products. However, if you have too much inventory i.e. too many raw materials, too much work that is still going on or too many finished products, problems will be created and money/resources lost accommodating the keeping of raw materials/finished goods. Too much work that is still in progress will also have no value until it is finished.

Conversely, too little stock, too little work being undertaken etc can cause problems for cash flow, the manufacturing process etc. The solution is to aim for everything being ‘Just In Time’ so that there is no downtime associated with inventory problems.


Motion is slightly different from the concept of transport. It relates to the worker and the equipment as well as the producer. Thus any unnecessary motion is identified and eliminated. This could be a worker having to walk 20 meters to pick up spare parts every half hour. If the spare parts are moved so that there is only 5 metres to walk then the waste of motion has been significantly reduced.

Motion also relates to working practices that may impact on how long machines will last or have a negative impact in terms of wear and tear on machinery.


Defects are wasteful because resources have been channelled into producing something that is not fit for purpose. Then there is the added cost of having to rectify the defect, plus the time used to rectify it is lost production time. Defects therefore need to be eliminated.
Over Processing
Over processing is when too much effort goes into an item in the sense of being over and above what is actually required. This could mean using tools that are more expensive to do a job for which a cheap tool would be adequate or using too many resources to finish a product, when it would be perfectly ok to simply use less resources.

If there is any waiting time for personnel or goods, then this has a knock on effect in terms of productivity and output, so waiting time should be reduced as far as possible and the ‘Just In Time’ concept applied in every aspect of productivity.

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