What is Lean Waste?

Short Answer:

Waste is a core concept in Lean Thinking. The idea is, everything we do should create value for our customers, if it’s not creating value then it’s waste!

Origin of Lean Waste

Taiichi Ohno Father of Lean Toyota Production System and Just in time production.
Taiichi Ohno

Toyota engineer Taiichi Ohno helped transform Toyota’s fortunes by declaring war on waste, because he understood that teaching staff to see and eliminate waste was the secret formula to quality, flow and customer satisfaction. 

He defined 3 categories of waste which every business must addressed if they want to become Lean. These categories are commonly know as the 3Ms after their Japanese names Muri, Mura and Muda.

The 3 Categories of Lean Waste

One of the first things you’ll likely learn in any Lean class is, The 7 (or 8) Wastes. We’ll look at that in a moment, but one of the most often overlooked subjects is the 3 categories of waste which are actually much more important.

Overburden (Muri)

When people or equipment are overburdened they are likely to ware out.

Unevenness (Mura)

If there is unevenness in the workload it can create overburden and also result in idle time which is like paying someone to do nothing.

Wastefulness (Muda)

Wastefulness is further broken down into 8 commonly occurring types of waste which are detailed further on.

What Are the 8 Types of Lean Waste?

Taiichi Ohno identified 7 types of waste which occurred in Toyota and these are a great starting point for other businesses, particularly in manufacturing because that’s where they originate. As the Lean concept grew in popularity an additional 8th waste was added.

These can appear in any type of business, but read on to learn where you should start in your own.

  1. Transport – Moving things from A to B
  2. Inventory – Holding too much stock
  3. Motion – Movement of people and equipment
  4. Waiting – Idle time waiting for tools, material or resources
  5. Over Processing – Having more steps in a process than are needed
  6. Over Production – Doing or making too much before it has been requested
  7. Defects – Any scrap or re-work
  8. Skills – Not using people to their full potential or developing their potential

If you’re still wondering how these might apply in your industry here are some downloadable sheets with examples:

What Are Your Lean Wastes?

Something I’ve learned after years of teaching businesses about Lean and waste is, you should always try to come up with your own list of wastes.

Ohno listed 7 wastes because that’s what he saw happening in Toyota. But what’s causing you or your staff to struggle? What’s slowing you down? These are your wastes, write them down.

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