Wastes in Processes

Why you should care:

Eliminating waste is a key principle of lean management. Identifying and measuring waste in business processes allows companies to reduce costs, improve quality, and deliver greater value to customers.

Tracking and minimizing these wastes is imperative for organizations seeking to optimize operations. Here, you will learn clear definitions of each waste, examples in business contexts, and most importantly, methods and metrics to recognize and reduce waste across your value streams. By correctly identifying and acting upon different forms of waste, your company can increase productivity, profitability, and customer satisfaction.

8 process wastes


is the easy formula to remind and identify them


Defects refer to quality issues or errors that occur due to human mistakes in the process. Steps that require manual data entry or decision making may be prone to accidental mistakes that lead to defects.


Overproduction is when more work is done than is required by the next step in the process. This includes unnecessary checks and validations done earlier than needed which take effort but provide no value.


Waiting refers to delays between process steps or hand-offs between people. These can be caused by bottlenecks from mismatched capacity between steps, uneven workloads, or manual batch approvals.

Not-Utilized Talent

Is when human workers have skills that are not fully leveraged because they are occupied on mundane process steps. Automation can take over repetitive tasks to augment human decision making.


Transportation involves unnecessary movement of physical documents or materials between process steps. Digital transfers of files and data can eliminate manual hand-offs and transport.


Are there instances of queue buildups or work-in-progress bottlenecks within the flow? Can automated pull signals replace push-based work assignments to reduce queue size?


Motion refers to unnecessary movement of people between process steps. This could include repetitive trips to pick up or deliver materials, excessive walking between work stations, or frequents status meetings that could be replaced with digital communication.

Extra Processing

Extra Processing refers to duplicative checks, reviews or approvals that add no value. Manual information aggregation and reporting that can be automated also falls under waste.

Have You Identified & Eliminated the 8 Wastes?​

Effective process improvement requires vigilantly identifying and eliminating all types of waste. Be an ongoing watchdog for the 8 wastes and continuously work to reduce inefficiencies:

Ask yourself these key questions:

  • Have you mapped out your end-to-end process flows and conducted waste assessments?
  • Are you tracking defect rates and quality issues to address root causes?
  • Do you monitor queue sizes and cycle times to reduce bottlenecks?
  • Does your workforce have opportunities to enhance skills and decision making?
  • Are you leveraging automation, digitization, and optimization solutions at every opportunity?