The 8 Types Of Waste In Lean Sigma

Under the Lean concept, there are 8 wastes that exist in business. All process waste can be categorized into one or more of these categories. The rule of these wastes apply whether you are in a manufacturing or non-manufacturing industry.

Before we talk about the 8 wastes, let’s define what “waste” means under Lean. It is important to understand that when we use the term “waste”, it doesn’t mean that it is “trash” and we should throw it out. It just means that it is not adding any value for the customer. If there is any way to get rid of the waste, it should be done. If there seems to be no way to currently remove the waste, methods should be found to reduce the waste and eventually remove the waste altogether with creativity and technology. This will become clearer as we talk about the 8 wastes further on this page.

Under the Lean concept, if something meets ANY of the following criteria, it is considered to be waste:
– does not change the information or product
– is not done right the first time
– the customer does not care about it or is not willing to pay for it

The acronym for the eight wastes is DOWNTIME. Downtime stands for:

  • Defects
  • Overproduction
  • Waiting
  • Not utilizing talent
  • Transportation
  • Inventory excess
  • Motion waste
  • Excess processing


Products or services that are out of specification that require resources to correct.Mistakes that require additional time, resources, and money to fix. In a manufacturing process, a defect might involve a defective part that has to be remade. Some causes:

  • Poor quality controls
  • Poor repair
  • Poor documentation
  • Lack of standards
  • Weak or missing processes
  • Misunderstanding customer needs
  • Uncontrolled inventory levels
  • Poor design and undocumented design changes

Over Production

Producing too much of a product before it is ready to be sold.

Overproduction may occur due to:

  • Just-in-case production
  • Unclear customer needs
  • Producing to a forecast
  • Long set-up times
  • Engineering changes
  • Poorly applied automation


Information sent automatically even when not required
• Printing documents before they are required
• Processing items before they are required by the next person in the process


Waiting for the previous step in the process to complete.

This occurs whenever work has to stop for some reason: because the next person in line is overwhelmed, because something broke down, because you’re waiting for approval or materials, or because you’ve run out of something. Causes can include:

  • Unbalanced workloads
  • Unplanned downtime
  • Long set-up times
  • Producing to a forecast
  • Insufficient staffing
  • Work absences
  • Poor process quality
  • Poor communication


Customers waiting to be served by a contact center
• Queue in a grocery store
• Patients waiting for a doctor at a clinic
• System downtime

Non-Utilized Talent 

Employees that are not effectively engaged in the process.

Companies can experience great benefits when recognizing the value of skills and improvement ideas from all levels of the business and can suffer when not effectively engaging in the process. This can typically be seen with:

  • Assigning staff to wrong tasks
  • Wasteful admin tasks
  • Poor communication
  • Lack of teamwork
  • Poor management
  • Insufficient training


  • Limited authority and responsibility
    • Managers common
    • Person put on a wrong job


Transporting items or information that is not required to perform the process from one location to another.

In general, transportation waste can be caused by:

  • Poor plant/office layout
  • Unnecessary or excessive steps in the process
  • Misaligned process flow
  • Poorly-designed systems


•  Movement of files and documents from one location to another
• Excessive e-mail attachments
• Multiple hand-offs

 Inventory Excess

This waste occurs when there is supply in excess of real customer demand, which masks real production. Causes include:

  • Overproduction and buffers
  • Poor monitoring systems
  • Mismatched production speeds
  • Unreliable suppliers
  • Long set-up times
  • Misunderstood customer needs


  • Files and documents awaiting to be processed
    • Excess promotional material sent to the market
    • Overstocked medicines in a hospital
    • More servers than required

Motion Waste

Any excess movement, whether by employees or machines, that doesn’t add value to the product, service or process. Typical causes include:

  • Poor process design and controls
  • Poor workstation/shop layout
  • Shared tools and machines
  • Workstation congestion
  • Isolated and soiled operations
  • Lack of standards


  • Looking for data and information
    • Looking for surgical instruments
    • Movement of people to and fro from filing, fax and Xerox machines

Excess Processing

This often occurs due to the creation of multiple versions of the same task, process more than is required or long-winded poorly designed processes. Examples include:

  • Excessive reports
  • Multiple signatures
  • Re-entering data and duplicated data
  • Lack of standards
  • Poor communication
  • Overdesigned equipment
  • Misunderstanding of the customer’s needs
  • Human error


  • Too much paperwork for a mortgage loan
    • Same data required in number of places in an application form
    • Follow-ups and costs associated with coordination
    • Too many approvals
    • Multiple MIS reports

All of these unnecessarily increase your costs, time and resources. You must first examine and map your organization to analyze the processes in order to fix them. Standardize processes, empower employees and eliminate unnecessary documentation, sign-off processes and meetings.










Under the Lean concept, there are 8 wastes that exist in business. All process waste can be categorized into one or more of these categories. The rule of these ...
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