The Eight Wastes

Many years ago, in a galaxy far, far away…oh not really.  Toyota identified the seven wastes when they developed the Toyota Production System from 1948 to 1975.  As the production system was integrated into Western culture the eighth waste- Not Listening to People’s Ideas was adopted.

When put into the correct order, the eight wastes spell out DOWNTIME.  This mnemonic helps you remember what the eight wastes are in business.  Let’s go through this important Lean framework.


1.  Defects

What is a defect? In Lean thinking, it is a product that doesn’t meet customer expectations.  You go to a restaurant and order a hamburger plain, no mustard, mayonnaise, etc.  It comes out covered with condiments.  You send it back.  That is a defect.  It didn’t meet your expectations.  Since they threw out the hamburger, it also increases waste.

Other forms of defects include errors in documents, mis-shipments, misreading an x-ray, etc.

2.  Overproduction

This shows up in the form of a lot of Work In Process (WIP) on the shop floor, piles of files on a desk, buses that run empty, and ordering too many lab tests to be completed. A process is outputting more production than the next step in the process can use. We have to keep everyone busy all the time, right?

3.  Waiting

DMV. Enough said. I have seen DMV kiosks in the Denver area where I live.  This is a technology solution to help eliminate people queuing at a location.  We wait because either the next process can’t take what we have made or we are waiting on raw materials for our process.  In either case, processes aren’t balanced.  We wait for information, decisions, people, materials, maintenance as a few examples.

4.  Not Listening to People’s Ideas

Who is doing the work every day? That’s right, your employees.  Who should you get involved when you want to make improvements?  This waste has the most impact on your bottom line.  People have lots of opportunities in today’s work environment.  Make sure that your company is driving employee engagement and focusing upon making their lives easier.

5.  Transportation

Think of transportation as using a truck, pallet jack, fork truck or some form of equipment. That is the difference between transportation and motion.  Moving items from one warehouse to another without being sold is transportation waste.  Sending people from one lab site to another because your equipment is down is another transportation waste.  Moving material out of the way to get to something behind it is waste.

6.  Inventory

Behind Not Listening, I think this is the second most costly waste. Having too much inventory crushes cash flow.  Measuring inventory turns is key to your survival if you are in manufacturing.  The simple measurement for inventory turns is sales dollars/inventory dollars.  If you are a $50M a year company and have four inventory turns, that means you have $12.5M tied up in inventory.  If you are that same $50M a year company and have 10 inventory turns, you have $5M tied up in inventory.  That $7.5M difference can do a lot for your business.

7.  Motion

Similar to transportation but involves people’s motion. Probably ten years ago I used to watch Baristas walk all over to finish an order at Starbucks.  Then they underwent a Lean transformation.  Now when I observe the baristas, they don’t go through near the motion they did before.  Observe and identify areas in your business where employees are doing a lot of motion and see if there are ways to eliminate it.

8.  Excess Processing

Sometimes referred to as “gold-plating” a product or service. Are you asking people to enter identical information into forms or software when once is enough?  Are you offering goods or services with extra features that people don’t want?  Does your phone system offer too many options when customers call in?  These are all forms of excess processing.

The eight wastes are everywhere in your business.  Go take a walk with some employees and take notes.  Identity some wastes and put them on a DOWNTIME chart like the one above.  Then go attack that waste!

As always, it is an honor to serve you and I hope that you and your company are getting better every day!

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