What Are the Seven Wastes of Operations?


Seven Wastes of Operations

Lean can be defined as the constant pursuit and elimination of waste to improve margin and customer value.graphic showing the seven wastes

Value can be defined as any activity that is performed in the value stream that the customer is prepared to pay for.  Everything else, therefore, can be considered waste.

Toyota identified the Seven Wastes in their processes and these have been widely adopted in other industries and have stood the test of time.  They are not exclusive to manufacturing either and can be found lurking in any process, from paying a bill at the bank, in a patient’s flow through a hospital, to mining a product out of the ground.  All these wastes come with a cost to the business and in some way will impact upon your brand.  Our job is to find them in the value stream and eliminate them.



The Seven Wastes can be categorised as:

Transportation – All forms of transportation are a waste. They consume energy and resources. With every act of transportation, there is an added risk of damage to the product.

graphic showing the waste of transport in its different forms in relation to the seven wastes



Inventory – Holding inventory in our processes ties up our cash.  It might look great on the balance sheet as a current asset but does not help add value.


graphic showing the waste of inventory in relation to the seven wastes

Motion – Chasing tools and parts, moving between equipment, looking for signatures, all take our time away from adding value.  Poorly designed processes build in cost.


graphic showing the waste of motion in relation to the seven wastes

Waiting – Any form of waiting whether it is a person or a piece of equipment can be considered a waste.


graphic showing the waste of waiting in relation to the seven wastes

Over-Production – Making more than the customer wants means that we end up holding the finished product of work in process that we may not be able to sell. This means we spend money unnecessarily to make a product that we could have kept as cash in the bank.  Stopping over-production means that we limit our risks of making a product we cannot sell and we stop the process from generating the other wastes too. Stopping over-production also helps us identify where our bottlenecks are in the process enabling us to balance our resources more effectively and zone in with our continuous improvement activities.


graphic showing the waste of over production in relation to the seven wastes


Over-Processing – Over-processing can be found in many different places.  Take the office, for example. How many signatures does a form really need?


graphic showing the waste of over processing in relation to the seven wastes

Sometimes we over maintain equipment or wash our products more than necessary, or over-design our equipment using twelve bolts to hold something in place when it may just need four.

Defects  –  Making defects or causing rework throws money down the drain.  We can hurt our reputation with customers by delivering a defective product.

graphic showing the waste of defects in relation to the seven wastes


Of the Seven Wastes, we consider Over-Production to be the worst.  Over-Production will hide the waste of Waiting in the value stream as processes can run independently of each other with no consequence of making more than required and, in so doing, will drive the other wastes.  We will have to store more inventory, transport more parts and so on. The first action leaders should take is to limit Over-Production and the other wastes will become obvious in the value stream.


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This page was written by Bob Newton in February 2018.
Due for review in 2019.
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