Men standing in front of machine control panels in factory freepoint technologies

Top 10 Wastes of Lean Manufacturing

As a quick, whistle-stop reminder, Lean Manufacturing is a concept developed during the 1990s – at the time, referred to as the Toyota Production System (TPS). It sets out to clarify the processes within the manufacturing timeline that add value, and eliminate the processes that inhibit it.

TPS identified the “seven wastes”, which we’ll be exploring in this article. But it doesn’t stop there – we’ll be examining some additional areas of waste that affect the factory line.


The TPS “seven wastes” are easily remembered via the acronym – “TIM WOOD”






Overproduction, and



What is waste?

Waste is anything that adds no value. When your production line follows a large number of processes, it’s inevitable that, over time, elements of that process develop that hamper the efficiency of the build. This costs the manufacturer money, which, in turn, gets transferred to the customer.

Eliminating waste is an essential component in a company’s ability to compete; while helping increase profits.

Your customers expect timely delivery, consistent quality and the right price. So, streamlining your processes to remove waste is essential.

1. Transport

Unnecessary transportation of goods within a factory-line is the product of a variety of problems: poor factory-floor layout; complex handling systems; large batch sizes; storage in multiple locations; and over-production. These all result in unnecessary transportation.

The movement of materials from location to location is a waste because it adds no value. You need to pay people to move materials, and the maintenance of vehicles is costly. A poor floor layout can increase the distance between operations, resulting in delays in processing and expensive transportation costs.

2. Inventory

Inventory costs the manufacturer money until it has been sold on to the customer. Every finished product or material component require storage space; waiting on the shelf to be sold.

Large amounts of inventory increase the chance of transit damage and cause delays in transportation.

3. Motion

Unnecessary motion occurs where movements by either man or machine are not as small or as simple as they could be. It could be that your engineer needs to bend down to pick up heavy objects multiple times throughout a shift – this puts strain on their back and could be eliminated by merely feeding those materials at waist-height, rather than on the floor.

This is all common sense because even robots will wear out eventually.

4. Waiting

A sloppy production timeline results in unsynchronized activity, causing waiting within the production process. Idle time occurs when interdependent procedures are not in synch:  operators are kept waiting, or work slowly to accommodate slack cogs in the wheel.

5. Overproduction

Overproduction breeds waste! It results from producing more product than your customer requires.

This causes storage problems from unnecessarily large batch sizes, and an inability to respond to customer need.

If your customer wants 150 pieces of x and 12 pieces of y, but you already have 700 pieces of y and only 10 pieces of x, then your customer is going to have to wait for your to produce to their requirement.

Streamlining your processes to meet customer need means that product is sent directly to the customer, in a timely fashion (and not stored).

6. Over-processing

Over-processing occurs where elements of your manufacture don’t add value. Painting of unseen parts of the product; cleaning or polishing beyond required levels: these are manifestations of over-processing.

Aim to process to the degree that is useful and necessary.

Over-processing is generally caused by a lack of standardization, unclear specifications, and inconsistent quality acceptance standards.

7. Defects

Defective goods are the most apparent waste. While faults can never be eliminated entirely, you can reduce them by implementing poka-yoke systems (processes that help equipment operators to avoid mistakes).

This requires thorough documentation of processes and standardized training so that everyone follows a standard set of operations to achieve a uniform result.

8. Wasted talent

If an employee is simply moving materials or equipment from one place to another (transportation), then that person’s talents are being under-utilized.

Non-utilized talent equally refers to management’s ignorance of continuous improvement feedback that comes from those operating the machines. If management fails to engage with talent, it’s considered a waste in lean manufacturing terms.

9. Ineffective performance measures

Machine monitoring is a valuable resource for transitioning a manufacturing process to lean. By obtaining an accurate data-reflection of current processes, you can identify waste.

You can also empower the workforce by providing the ability to monitor their own performance and recognize productivity norms, while rewarding uniform, standardized working practices.

10. Poor supplier quality

No production process can overcome an unreliable supplier. If you need materials to produce, then you need to be able to rely on your suppliers to make sure your processes are as efficient as they can be.

Of course, there are always extenuating circumstances, but if your suppliers are continuously letting you down, it might be time to look elsewhere.

To conclude

Your workforce is your business, and making sure that they’re productive is more than continually watching over them. Listen to them, because they will have the first-hand experience of any problems on your production line.

Eliminating waste is about examining your existing processes, and empowering operators to help you streamline the factory floor.

With machine monitoring, we allow companies to measure and record granular production information right off the plant floor, from any machine, in real time. Not only does this help eliminate waste, it engages your employees with actionable data.