Lean Manufacturing and the Seven Deadly Wastes

In a dream world, every manufacturer would have the simplest yet most effective processes in place to make their Supply Chain as efficient and revenue driven as possible. This is the basis of Lean Manufacturing. Eliminate anything within your supply chain that is not driving revenue or adding value.

In this article, we will discuss what exactly Lean Manufacturing is, and the main “wastes” that contribute to an inefficient supply chain.

What is Lean Manufacturing?

Lean Manufacturing

The main idea behind lean manufacturing is fairly simple, continuously work on eliminating waste from the manufacturing process.

So, what is waste? Waste is any activity or process that isn’t bringing added value to your customer. According to research conducted by the Lean Enterprise Research Centre (LERC), only 5% of activities actually add value, with the rest broken down by 35% being necessary non-value adding activities and an astounding 60% adding no value at all.

Seven Types of Waste

Let’s dive a little deeper into the waste category now. Lean identifies seven key areas of waste, typically referred to as the Seven Deadly Wastes.

Seven Deadly Wastes


Transport is the movement of materials from one location to another, this is considered a waste as it adds zero value to the product. You are paying someone to move materials, a process that only costs you money and makes nothing for you. Obviously, transportation is necessary for the manufacturing of any product, but it is the unnecessary movement of raw materials, work-in-process or finished goods that we need to focus on.

There are a few ways to improve this process and avoid unnecessary transport. Map out a linear, sequential flow from raw materials to finished goods, keeping in mind continuous flow. You want to make sure that work-in-process is not placed into inventory, but rather it flows smoothly through production without barriers.


Inventory does nothing but cost you money. Whether this is a raw material, work-in-progress or finished good, it has a cost to you until it is actually sold. Inventory also feeds other types of waste. All inventory at one time or another has to be stored, requires space, needs packaging or has to be transported. It also has the risk of being damaged, resulting in a complete loss. Again, inventory is unavoidable, they key here is to only have in your possession the quantities necessary for the immediate need.

This is another area where having that mapped out, continuous flow is important. It also fully supports just-in-time manufacturing which greatly reduces inventory waste. This is where parts are pulled through production based on customer demand instead of projected demand.


Unnecessary motions are movements of people that are not as small or as easy to achieve as could be possible. For example, if you staff member is bending down to floor level to retrieve heavy objects rather than the objects being fed to that person at waist level reducing stress and time. This can also include excessive travel between work stations.

To avoid motion waste, it’s best to apply the Six Sigma 5S philosophy. Sort (eliminate what isn’t needed), Set in Order (organize the remaining items), Shine (clean and inspect work area), Standardize (write standards for the previous S’s), and Sustain (continuously apply the standards). We’ll get into this philosophy in more detail in the next blog post.


How often are you stuck waiting for an answer from another department, or waiting on a shipment from a supplier? It can be extremely eye-opening to look at the timeline from order to shipment and see how much of that time is spent on actual value-added manufacturing. This waste of waiting disrupts the flow of your manufacturing process, which is one of the main principles of lean manufacturing and is considered one of the most serious wastes.

To decrease (and hopefully eliminate) waiting waste, you need to take a long, hard look at your manufacturing timeline and flow. Then, design a process so that the flow is continuous and there are minimal disruptions between steps in production. Use standardized work instructions, so that consistent methods and times are used for each step in your process.


Overproduction is by far the most important waste to address. This happens when something is produced before it is actually needed. This usually takes place when working with oversized batches, long lead times, or poor supplier relations. Overproduction leads to an excess of inventory, which can mask other problems within your organization.

It is important here to pace your production so that the rate of manufacturing matches the rate of your customer demand (back to the just-in-time approach). You can also take a look at reducing set up times so that smaller batches can be economically manufactured.


This waste can be the most difficult to detect and eliminate. This is when inappropriate techniques, oversized equipment, and/or unnecessary processes are used. An example is when a company purchases a mega machine that can perform a process faster than any other. The issue though is that all processes then have to be routed through said machine causing scheduling complications and delays.

Being lean is all about being small and efficient. Looks for ways to simplify the manufacturing process, and that may mean using smaller, more appropriate machines where they are needed in the continuous flow plan.


This is the most obvious waste, but unfortunately often not recognized until it has already reached your customer. Quality errors within your product that cause defects inevitably require rework or replacement. It wastes time, resources, materials, creates extra paperwork and could ultimately lead to a lost customer.

Poka-yoke is an error-proofing process, identifying design error and preventing error in the production process with the goal to achieve zero defects.  This is ideal, as it is better to try to prevent defects rather than detect them. Implementing Poka-yoke systems and autonomation can help. If a defect is already present, then it is best to look for the single most frequent defect and determine why and where this occurs in the manufacturing process.

The Eighth Deadly Waste

Lean Manufacturing

There is an additional waste that isn’t typically addressed when referring to lean manufacturing but is still essential to making your supply chain as efficient as possible. This is the waste of talent or human potential. If you fail to make use of the best people within your organization, then you losing opportunities. This can be in the form of lost motivation, lost ideas, or lost creativity.  This waste oftentimes gets swept under the rug or ignored because it is ultimately the responsibility of management. This could be from management styles, or policies, or maybe the manager is too busy with his own inefficient processes to notice untapped talent.

All seven (well, eight) wastes contribute to inefficient supply chains and ultimately lost time and money. Identifying these wastes within your manufacturing process is just the first step. We reviewed briefly some solutions to these wastes, but in our next article, we will review philosophy’s and tools to implement to help rectify these problems.

Here at LTX Solutions, we may specialize in LTL shipping, but we always go above and beyond to support our customers. This means coming in and analyzing your process to find wastes, and offer solutions. If you’re interested in learning more about how we can help your overall supply chain, click the contact us button below.

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