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8 Wastes of Lean

An Introduction to Waste

In the context of Lean, waste refers to any activity, process, or resource that does provide value to the customer or contribute to achieving the desired outcome. Waste is seen as any non-value-added step or inefficiency within a process that should be minimized or eliminated to improve overall process performance. In Japanese, Muda is the term used for Waste. Taiichi Ohno, the Chief Engineer at Toyota, originally described the 7 wastes of Lean as part of the Toyota Production System (TPS).

What Are the 8 Wastes?

There are two popular acronyms that are used to describe the 8 most commonly identified wastes. The first is DOWNTIME and the other is TIMWOODS. Let’s take a look at TIMWOODS to understand the basic 8 wastes. The 8 wastes are:

1. Transportation

The unnecessary moving around of material, people, information, and equipment often results in wasted time, lost items, and possible damage.

2. Inventory

Excessive inventory can take up valuable space, requiring resources to manage it (buildings, people, utilities, insurance, etc.). You also have possible issues of obsolescence and shrinkage. There is also the cost of capital by tying up cash in inventory.

3. Motion

Unnecessary and dangerous movement that can cause physical harm to people (stretching, lifting, and pulling), damage to equipment, or defects in the product. This is different from Transportation since, in the case of people, we are talking about ergonomic issues rather than just people moving around.

4. Waiting

Time wasted waiting for people, equipment, materials, and information so that you can start doing your work.

5. Overproduction

Producing more products or services than the customer or your process needs results in excess inventory and all the expenses described above under Inventory.

6. Overprocessing

Doing more than the customer wants, needs, or is willing to pay for.

7. Defects

The production of a product with defects or the unsatisfactory delivery of service will require either a rework or a scrapping of the product or the redelivery of a service which the customer will not pay for.

8. Skills

This waste was not originally included in Ohno’s original 7 Wastes but is certainly a valid waste. Skills are the waste of not using people’s talent, knowledge and experience to improve the process.

The second common acronym for the 8 Wastes of Lean is DOWNTIME. Notice that the elements are exactly the same, although with different terms and sequence.

  1. Defects

  2. Overproduction

  3. Waiting

  4. Non-Utilization of Talent

  5. Transportation

  6. Inventory

  7. Motion

  8. Extra processing

An industry example of the 8 wastes of lean

A company producing custom-made furniture used TIMWOODS to look for waste in their furniture assembly process.


The furniture pieces were moved from one workstation to another multiple times during the assembly process. This led to potential damage and wasted time. To address this waste, the company reorganized the layout of workstations, ensuring that all required tools, equipment, and materials were located within close proximity. This way, unnecessary transportation could be minimized, reducing the risk of damage and improving efficiency.


Excess inventory of furniture components was being kept on hand, resulting in increased storage costs and potential obsolescence. The company analyzed their demand patterns and implemented a just-in-time (JIT) inventory management system. By ordering components only when needed, they reduced inventory levels and associated costs while ensuring availability when required.


Workers often had to walk long distances within the assembly area to retrieve tools and materials, leading to wasted time and inefficiencies. To address this, the company implemented a tool and material organization system, ensuring that everything was stored in a logical and accessible manner. This minimized unnecessary motion, improved ergonomics, and reduced the time spent searching for items.


Workers frequently experienced delays waiting for equipment or materials to be available. The company streamlined the supply chain and established clear communication channels to reduce waiting time. They implemented systems to track material availability and ensure timely delivery, thus minimizing waiting waste and maximizing productivity.


In some cases, furniture pieces were produced in larger quantities than required. This led to excess inventory and tied up resources unnecessarily. By closely monitoring customer demand and adjusting production accordingly, the company reduced overproduction, optimized resource utilization, and minimized waste.


Some unnecessary steps or activities were performed during the assembly process, adding no value to the final product. The company conducted a detailed process analysis to identify and eliminate such steps. By focusing only on the necessary actions to achieve customer requirements, they eliminated waste, reduced cycle time, and improved overall efficiency.


The company occasionally encountered defects during the assembly process, leading to rework or scrap. They implemented quality control measures such as thorough inspections, standardized work instructions, and employee training programs to minimize defects and ensure that products meet quality standards.


Unfortunately, this company was a traditionally managed company where supervisors didn’t solicit employee input but told everyone what to do. Once the supervisors were taught how to properly ask for input, they realized that their people had some great improvement ideas and were happy to share them since it would make their jobs easier.

3 benefits of identifying the 8 wastes of lean

Identifying the 8 wastes of Lean provides several benefits for organizations seeking to improve their processes and increase efficiency. Here are three key benefits:

1. Process Optimization

By identifying the 8 wastes within a process, organizations can analyze and understand the areas of inefficiency and non-value-added activities. This awareness enables them to focus their improvement efforts on eliminating or minimizing these wastes.

2. Cost Reduction

The 8 wastes represent activities that consume resources without adding value to the customer. By identifying and eliminating these wastes, organizations can significantly reduce their costs.

3. Enhanced Customer Satisfaction

Lean principles are ultimately centered around delivering value to the customer. By eliminating waste, organizations can focus more on value-added activities that directly meet customer needs and expectations.

In summary, identifying the 8 wastes of Lean enables organizations to optimize their processes, reduce costs, and enhance customer satisfaction. These benefits contribute to overall operational excellence and sustainable business performance.

Waste Walk

A waste walk, also known as a gemba walk or process walk, is a Lean management technique used to identify and eliminate waste within a specific process or area. It involves physically observing the process in its actual work environment, known as the gemba, to gain a deep understanding of how work is performed, identify inefficiencies, and uncover opportunities for improvement.

Learn More About 8 Wastes

To learn more about the 8 wastes of Lean and deepen your understanding, you can explore the following resources and approaches:

Lean Literature and Books

There are several books dedicated to Lean principles and the 8 wastes. Some highly recommended titles include "The Toyota Way" by Jeffrey Liker, "Lean Thinking" by James P. Womack and Daniel T. Jones, and "Learning to See: Value Stream Mapping to Add Value and Eliminate MUDA" by Mike Rother and John Shook.

Online Articles and Websites

Numerous websites and online articles offer in-depth explanations and examples of the 8 wastes of Lean. Websites such as Lean Enterprise Institute (LEI),, and provide valuable resources and articles that delve into the topic.

Lean Training and Certification Programs

Consider attending Lean training programs or workshops offered by reputable training providers. These programs often cover Lean principles, tools, and the 8 wastes in detail. Some organizations like also offer certification programs, such as Lean Six Sigma certifications, which include comprehensive coverage of Lean concepts.

Case Studies and Examples

Explore real-world case studies and examples that illustrate how organizations have identified and eliminated the 8 wastes in their processes.

Gemba Walks and Observations

One of the best ways to learn about the 8 wastes is to practice observing processes through gemba walks. Visit the actual work area and closely observe the activities, interactions, and materials flow.

Peer Discussions and Networking

Engage with fellow Lean practitioners, join Lean forums or communities, and participate in networking events.


Lean thinking is a management philosophy and approach that aims to maximize value for customers while minimizing waste in all aspects of a business or organization. It originated from the Toyota Production System (TPS) and has been widely adopted across various industries and sectors.

At its core, lean thinking focuses on providing value to customers by continuously improving processes, eliminating waste, and engaging employees at all levels of the organization in the pursuit of efficiency and quality.

What is Lean?

Lean is a business methodology and management philosophy that focuses on maximizing value for customers while minimizing waste and inefficiencies in processes. It originated from the Toyota Production System (TPS) and has been widely adopted across industries as a means to improve operational performance, quality, and customer satisfaction.

Lean emphasizes the following key principles and practices:


Lean starts with understanding and defining value from the customer's perspective. Value is any product, service, or activity that meets customer needs or requirements.

Value Stream

A value stream represents all the steps and activities required to deliver a product or service to the customer. Lean focuses on mapping and analyzing the value stream to identify waste and opportunities for improvement.


Lean aims to establish a smooth and continuous flow of work by eliminating disruptions, bottlenecks, and delays. This involves optimizing the sequence of activities, reducing setup times, and ensuring a consistent workflow.


Lean promotes a pull system, where work is performed based on actual customer demand. This helps to prevent overproduction, reduces inventory, and increases responsiveness to customer needs.

Waste Reduction

Waste, also known as "muda," is any activity or resource that does not add value to the customer. Lean identifies and eliminates various types of waste, such as overproduction, waiting, unnecessary transportation, defects, and excessive inventory.

Continuous Improvement

Lean fosters a culture of continuous improvement, encouraging all employees to participate in identifying and solving problems, making incremental improvements, and seeking ways to enhance processes, quality, and efficiency.

Respect for People

Lean places importance on respecting and empowering employees. It recognizes that employees are key contributors to process improvement and encourages their active involvement, engagement, and development.

What is Continuous Improvement (Kaizen)?

Kaizen is a Japanese term that translates to "change for the better" or "continuous improvement." It is a key concept in Continuous Improvement and Lean management and is widely applied in organizations to foster a culture of ongoing improvement at all levels.

Kaizen emphasizes the belief that small, incremental improvements made consistently over time can lead to significant positive changes in processes, quality, and overall performance. It encourages employees at all levels to actively contribute their ideas, knowledge, and skills to identify and implement improvements.

Using the PDCA Cycle to Support Continuous Improvement (Kaizen)

The PDCA (Plan-Do-Check-Act) cycle, also known as the Deming Cycle or Shewhart Cycle, is a systematic problem-solving and continuous improvement framework that can be used to support and drive Kaizen efforts.

When combined with Kaizen efforts, the PDCA cycle provides a structured and systematic approach for continuous improvement. It helps to ensure that improvement efforts are based on data and analysis, empowers employees to contribute ideas and solutions, and promotes a culture of learning and experimentation. The PDCA cycle supports the Kaizen philosophy by providing a framework to implement and evaluate improvement actions, assess their impact, and drive further refinement and innovation.

The Future of Lean Manufacturing is here now

While it is difficult to predict what the future holds, there are a number of possibilities of which a number already exist today. Here are a few:

Lean manufacturing is integrating more deeply with digital technologies automation, robotics, Internet of Things (IoT), big data analytics, and artificial intelligence (AI) and are likely to play increasingly important roles in optimizing processes, improving decision-making, and enhancing efficiency.

While lean principles have been traditionally applied in manufacturing, there is growing interest in applying lean concepts to service industries such as healthcare, logistics, retail, and software development. The future of lean manufacturing may expand beyond the shop floor and encompass end-to-end value streams across various sectors.

Sustainability is gaining prominence in manufacturing, and lean principles can be aligned with sustainable practices. The future of lean manufacturing may see increased focus on reducing waste, energy consumption, and environmental impact. Organizations may adopt lean practices to achieve both operational efficiency and environmental sustainability goals.

As supply chains become more complex and globalized, lean principles can be extended to optimize end-to-end supply chain operations. Future developments may involve using lean thinking to reduce lead times, improve demand forecasting, and enhance collaboration among suppliers, manufacturers, and customers.

How to Get Lean Six Sigma Certified

To become Lean Six Sigma certified, you can follow these general steps:

Register with a reputable organization Like

1. Understand Lean Six Sigma

2. Choose a Certification Level

3. Select a Certification Body

4. Review Certification Requirements

5. Training and Education

6. Complete Certification Exam and Project

7. Submit Application

8. Take the Exam or Present the Project

9. Certification Validation

10. Continuous Learning

Frequently Asked Questions About the 8 Wastes of Lean

Are the acronyms DOWNTIME and TIMWOODS related to the 8 wastes of lean?

Yes, DOWNTIME defines the 8 wastes as Defects, Overproduction, Waiting, Non-utilization of people, Transportation, Inventory, Motion and Extra processing. TIMWOODS stands for Transportation, Inventory, Motion, Waiting, Overproduction, Overprocessing, Defects and Skills.

What is waste in Lean Six Sigma?

Waste in Lean Six Sigma as defined by Taiichi Ohno, the Chief Engineer at Toyota, as part of the Toyota Production System (TPS) is Transportation, Inventory, Motion, Waiting, Overproduction, Overprocessing and Defects. The concept of not soliciting or under-utilizing people’s skills was added as an 8th waste.

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