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The 8 Wastes in Lean Manufacturing You Want to Avoid

By: Ben Baldwin

March 16, 2021

The 8 Wastes in Lean Manufacturing You Want to Avoid

Is it possible to eliminate the 8 wastes in lean manufacturing? How much does waste inhibit your manufacturing productivity?

Waste and productivity are locked in a strong negative correlation. As one goes up, the other goes down. And there is only so much room in your production process. The fact is, you cannot attain your maximum potential for productivity if you have high levels of waste.

Productivity goes hand in hand with profitability. And wasted materials, time, and skills go hand in hand with lost profit.

Why Should We Eliminate Waste?

Implementing a strong plan to mitigate waste is now a matter of survival in a competitive market where quality is more valued than cheap prices.

Precision and quality

Precision manufacturing is more important than ever. As our capabilities and products become smarter, there is less and less margin for error. Customers need products to match exact specifications and quality standards. Industry 4.0 is about pushing these standards to achieve greater quality and precision.

The pursuit of Industry 4.0 is to reach nothing less than perfection in manufacturing. This means limiting wastes to the absolute smallest measures possible. It might sound like a lofty goal but smart factories are experiencing unprecedented levels of productivity thanks to intelligently cutting waste from the right areas of their operations.

The Zero-Defect Mentality and Lean Manufacturing are examples of this ongoing quest towards excellence. By eliminating wastes in your production process, you will get the most out of your time, your investment, and your people.

What are the 8 Wastes in Lean Manufacturing?

There are 8 specific wastes that harm operations. In most cases, deliberate waste in one category will affect wastes in other areas. And these are positive correlations. Meaning that as waste increases in one place, waste will also increase somewhere else in the production line.

Here’s a simple example. If defects are not severely limited, then rework and extra-processing will take place. This stalls production and employees later in the production line will need to wait or perform less useful duties. This then grows to wasted potential from employees, overstocking, unnecessary motion, and so on.

Manufacturing operations are about strong connections between processes. And that is why waste in one area can spread to another area so easily. Waste elicits more waste.

By identifying waste in your operation and applying the right tools, you are that much closer to removing it.

The 8 wastes in lean manufacturing can be remembered using the appropriate acronym DOWNTIME.

  • Defects
  • Overproduction
  • Waiting
  • Non-Utilized Talent
  • Transportation
  • Inventory
  • Motion
  • Extra-Processing

Downtime is not something that any manufacturer wants to hear. And those that have experienced it know it is a costly lesson. Downtime does not only cost manufacturers money, it also costs them time. This ultimately equates to lost potential. What a waste!

Many manufacturers have learned this lesson and pioneered the principles of lean manufacturing. Now, all can apply these principles to eliminate waste in their operations.

Let’s take a look at the 8 wastes in lean manufacturing, see how they’re connected, and look at how to mitigate or eliminate them.


Defects are costly for you and your customers, resulting in negative effects in the short and long term. Defects can surface from several issues, such as inaccurate records, improper inventory, lack of quality control, and design flaws.


Many of the other wastes in lean manufacturing can lead to this one detrimental problem. It is incredibly important to mitigate costly defects.

If the product is unfitted to a customer’s standard, the time spent and materials used are almost certainly worthless. After defects are discovered, there is only one course of action. Rework.

If that wasn’t enough damage, your production schedule is also in jeopardy and your lead time has now increased. Business relationships and trust between you and your clients may be irreparably harmed.

But defects can be largely mitigated by incorporating smart standardized procedures. Our work instruction software provides manufacturers with the tools to distribute key procedural knowledge. Employees gain an easy-to-use guide detailing every step of production. This boosts process adherence and cuts down defects.


In some senses, it may seem like a good idea to produce more than you or your customer needs. But this line of thinking is harmful to your business.

Over-production generates unnecessary goods at inefficient times.

For example, let’s imagine that you create rubber tires for the 250cc go-kart race track. Your production is going very well and you’ve filled your order in record time before the go-kart racing season begins. To maintain momentum, you decide to continue producing tires to get ahead of next year's orders and create some overflow.

But two problems need to be considered.

Those new tires have not been ordered, so there is no guarantee that they will be sold. The tires will need to be stored in a cool, dry area free from light, moisture, oxygen, heat, or any chemicals that can cause deformation.

The result is that your company spent time manufacturing goods that may not be sold, and you have to store and maintain your products. This delays return on an investment.

Today’s smart factories produce goods according to the customer’s needs so that every manufactured good is already sold. If possible, a pull based manufacturing system is a smart way to match customer needs with your production.

In the case that production does exceed customer demand, then use the extra time for continuous improvement projects. Train and build employee skills, maintain the facility, and pursue other areas for growth.


Time spent waiting is time spent doing nothing. Which in the end throws off the production schedule and costs money.

Within an assembly line, certain steps need to be performed before later actions can begin. But if certain steps in a process are habitually waiting for the previous step to be completed, then we have a case of wasted time in waiting.

workers waiting

Luckily, this is usually one of the easiest wastes to fix. As we discussed above, having a well-timed operation is incredibly important and key for successful operations.

Our work instruction software tracks the completion times of every workers' tasks. This gives you an accurate understanding of where waiting is occurring and what is causing the issue. With this knowledge, your workers’ skills are better utilized in creating value.

Non-Utilized Talent

Happy and fulfilled employees are an incredibly valuable asset. Underutilized skills may lead to a high turnover rate or generate demotivation within the workforce.

If someone is not challenged or used to their full potential, then this is a waste of skill. And eventually, the employee or the employer will realize this.

It is important to engage employees' skills by incorporating them into activities that foster company improvement and learning opportunities.

Encouraging your employees is less expensive than hiring and training new ones. You never know, one of your employees may have a great idea that can benefit your company!


Whether moving material within a facility or on the road, inefficient transportation is a costly waste. Poorly planned layouts or transportation routes lead to wear and tear on equipment, costs in fuel, and added time.

This brings us back to Overproduction and Waiting. If transportation is behind schedule due to inefficient routing or poor logistical/inventory planning, then workers and machinery could experience costly downtime. Moving materials only when necessary is a key goal of lean manufacturing.

Value stream mapping (also known as material and information mapping) is an effective way to restructure transport in your facility. This is a visual tool that outlines the key steps in your operation that bring value to your customer. Once the map is laid out, any transportation that does not add value to the customer should be removed.


Inventory needs to be stored somewhere. If products and materials are not stored correctly, they can be damaged or become a health and safety hazard.

excess inventory

As we've discussed, excess inventory of products is a direct result of overproduction. But an excess inventory of materials is due to poor planning.

Having software that tracks inventory with a connected ERP is an invaluable tool. As workers follow their digital work instructions and use materials, the data is being tracked and recorded. This allows for smart factories to predict material usage based on the production schedule.

No more than what is needed is ordered, and inventory is kept to a minimum.


As we try to minimize transportation waste with materials, we also should minimize motion waste with people.

Excessive motion takes time. Whether walking on the shop floor, looking through records, or rereading instructions, unnecessary movement can incrementally eat away at your productivity.

How your employees move is a great indicator of waste. How far do they need to move on a given day? Is there a lot of unnecessary movement within their desk or workstation?

For example, searching through files or papers to find the correct work instruction is a waste of time and movement. A smarter option would be to use a fast and autonomous system that enables quick and easy access to the needed information.

You can’t cut out movement entirely, but with careful planning and purpose-driven tools, employees can move smarter.


As opposed to under processing, this waste concerns doing too much work. In reality, we want to hit that sweet spot of supplying the best product without adding in unnecessary costs.

Think of it this way. Extra processing occurs when an operation is poorly designed, requiring more materials and work than there needs to be. This can stem from a lack of communication, inaccurate data, or bad planning.

Extra-processing is also a waste when efforts are made to deliver goods of a higher quality than expected. The customer has ordered a specific part with specific specifications. Anything over that goal harms your bottom line and potentially harms the final desired product.

If you own a French Fry stand, you could decide that covering the fries with free cheese will boost the experience for each customer. But you soon realize that not everyone wants cheese. Though more value is added from a cost perspective, it does not match the customers' needs.

There are other ways of providing extra value to your customers while cutting out extra processing; such as warranties and product support.

Eliminate Waste with Digital Work Instructions

Reducing waste within an operation is a matter of careful observation and planning. It needs to be intentional.

8 wastes of lean manufacturing

By focusing on these 8 wastes in lean manufacturing, you will be better equipped to pursue growth in a leaner and stronger operation.

Our software is a solution that helps companies increase their productivity, quality, and profitability. In addition to visually displaying your best practices in a user-friendly interface, VKS monitors performance within your factory, giving you live reports and traceability data to better control your production.

VKS is helping customers dramatically minimize waste as well as meeting their business goals.

With contributions from Berenice Mengo.

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