The 8 Wastes of Lean: Understanding and Addressing Them in Your Organization (2024)

The 8 Wastes of Lean: Understanding and Addressing Them in Your Organization (1)

Waste in an organization is all around us. You want to be able to identify waste so that you can go about eliminating it where you can. This article will explore the most common sources of waste in any organization, explore the benefits of identifying and eliminating waste, provide an example of how one organization approached this issue and then present some best practices for undertaking this effort.

Overview: What are the 8 wastes of lean?

One corporate executive is fond of saying, “Waste is all around us, yet we walk by it every day.” There are two popular acronyms that are used to describe the 8 most commonly identified wastes. The first is TIMWOODS and the other is DOWNTIME. Let’s first understand what TIMWOODS is all about. In Japanese, Muda is the word for Waste. Originally, there were 7 wastes that were described by Taiichi Ohno, the Chief Engineer at Toyota, as part of the Toyota Production System (TPS). Those 7 wastes were:

  1. Transportation: The unnecessary moving around of material, people and equipment often resulting in wasted time and possible damage.
  2. Inventory: Excessive inventory that takes up valuable space, requires resources to manage it and ties up capital dollars.
  3. Motion: Unnecessary and dangerous movement that can cause harm to people, damages to equipment, or defects in the product. This is different from Transportation since, in the case of people, we are talking about the ergonomic issues rather than the mere relocation of them.
  4. Waiting: The waste of time waiting for people, equipment, materials, and information to arrive so that you can do your work.
  5. Overproduction: Producing more 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 defective product or delivery of service will require either a rework or a scraping of the product. The customer will not pay for either.
  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 organization.

The second common acronym for the 8 Wastes of Lean is DOWNTIME. You will notice that the elements are exactly the same in content but with slightly different terminology and order.

  1. Defects
  2. Overproduction
  3. Waiting
  4. Non-Utilization of Talent
  5. Transportation
  6. Inventory
  7. Motion
  8. Extra processing

3 benefits of identifying the 8 wastes of lean

The same executive mentioned above with regards to waste being all around us also said that, “If we don’t call Waste what it really is, we will never eliminate it.”

1. It improves process performance

By identifying the 8 wastes and eliminating them, you improve your productivity and process performance because you are not wasting time and resources that result from these wastes.

2. Creates a common definition and description of waste

By using the terms of either acronym, everyone in the organization can view and define the various wastes in common terms. This reduces any miscommunication as to what you are talking about when pointing out that something is indeed a waste.

3. The wastes focus on the functioning of the process and not on the people

There will be less resistance and defensiveness if waste is perceived as a process issue rather than a people issue.

Why are the 8 wastes of lean important to understand?

After working in a process for a while, people tend to get immune to waste because they start to believe it is just the way we do things here at XYZ Corporation.

As long as waste exists in an organization, it will be underperforming compared to its potential

If you learn to accept waste as the way you do business, you will be wasting resources and capacity and may jeopardize the well being of the organization.

Employees are aware of the waste and can feel frustrated by it

An abundance of waste in an organization will create a frustrating environment for the people doing the work. Furthermore, it can create an unsafe place to work.

Waste will impact the quality of the product and service

Because waste has the tendency to affect your product or service, it could also affect your customer. Nothing will lose you a customer faster than a poor product or service. Eliminate the waste, and you will likely be able to satisfy your customer to a higher degree.

An industry example of the 8 wastes of lean

The 8 Wastes of Lean are descriptive in nature and not necessarily an actionable activity. But, some organizations have used the 8 Wastes of Lean as a template to audit their organizational processes to provide a framework for improvement.

As an example, a large banking organization used the DOWNTIME acronym as a template to evaluate its internal processes. Every department head was charged with observing their operations and evaluating the department tasks against the framework of DOWNTIME.

No one was surprised, especially the people doing the work, that there were a number of times when errors and Defects occurred in the documentation. Unfortunately there was a lot of time Waiting for other departments and the customer to provide information. Rarely were people asked for input on how to improve things, so their talent was Non-utilized. There was also a lot of walking back and forth or Transportation in the office. People also noted excessive supplies or Inventory of forms, paper and other other office supplies.

Some of the employees complained about having to reach for things, so Motion was an issue. They also wondered why there were so many inspections, checks, and audits of things — Extra Processing for which the customer certainly wasn’t paying for.

Once senior leadership saw all the opportunities, they put together a number of improvement teams of employees and tasked them with recommending improvements to eliminate as much of the waste as they could.

3 best practices when thinking about the 8 wastes of lean

Everyone hates waste, but until you confront it, little will be done to eliminate it. Here are a few best practices that will help you.

1. Be sure that everyone has the same understanding of the definition of either TIMWOODS or DOWNTIME

Be sure to provide a clear definition of the terms and provide clear and relevant examples of each so everyone is on the same page.

2. Tackle the issue of resistance and defensiveness upfront

Make sure that you make it clear that you are not attacking any individual and saying that what they do is a waste. Point out that waste is the result of process design rather than due to incompetence or lack of caring on the part of the employee.

3. Don’t take on everything at once

Evaluating a process for all the possible wastes can be daunting. Pick one or two and identify and reduce or eliminate them. This will show that waste can be reduced and eliminated and that the organization is committed to creating a better environment for people to work in.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) about the 8 wastes of lean

What are the elements of TIMWOODS?

Transportation, Inventory, Motion, Waiting, Overproduction, Overprocessing, Defects, and Skills.

Is there a difference between TIMWOODS and DOWNTIME?

The elements are essentially the same but with slightly different terminology and order.

Can the 8 Wastes of Lean be applied to non-manufacturing organizations?

Absolutely. Waste exists in all organizations, and the 8 wastes can be identified and eliminated in any type of organization.

On a final note: The 8 Wastes of Lean

The 8 Wastes of Lean exist in every organization and are all around you. You walk by it everyday and can become desensitized to its existence. Waste can create a frustrating and unsafe work environment for your employees. It is your responsibility to stop walking by waste, ignoring its existence, and failing to call it what it is: waste. While it’s not always easy or possible to eliminate all waste, it is simple enough for you and your organization to evaluate the things you do and identify and define the various types of waste described by TIMWOODS and DOWNTIME. So, stop wasting time and start looking.

The 8 Wastes of Lean: Understanding and Addressing Them in Your Organization (2024)
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