Waste or muda is the target of most lean and six sigma improvements. But, first you have to recognize you have waste, call it what it is, and then work to reduce or eliminate it. Let’s examine the most common types of waste.

Overview: What is waste? 

A simple definition might describe waste as any activity in your process that does not add value for your customer. One corporate executive was fond of saying, “Waste is all around us, yet we walk by it every day.” 

There are two popular acronyms used to describe the 8 most commonly identified wastes. The first is TIMWOODS and the other is DOWNTIME. Let’s look at each one.

  1. Transportation: Unnecessary moving around of material, people and equipment. 
  2. Inventory: Excessive inventory taking up space and requiring resources to manage it while tying up capital dollars.
  3. Motion: Unnecessary movement that can cause harm to people, damage to equipment, or defects in the product.
  4. Waiting: Waste of time waiting for people, equipment, materials, and information to arrive so you can do your work.
  5. Overproduction: Producing more than the customer or your process needs.
  6. Overprocessing: Doing more than the customer wants, needs, or is willing to pay for.
  7. Defects: Production of defective product or delivery of service requiring either rework or a scraping of the product.
  8. Skills: 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. Notice the elements are the same in content, but with slightly different terminology and sequence.  

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

An industry example of waste 

A large restaurant chain was seeking to reduce its costs by reducing or eliminating waste in their processes.

Leadership put together a team of employees and asked them to develop a list of possible sources of waste in the operation using the TIMWOODS acronym as the template. Below is part of the list they developed.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) about waste

What is waste in the context of Six Sigma? 

Waste is any process activity that does not add value for the customer. The customer will not pay for this non-value added work, yet you expend resources creating the waste. 

Who developed the concept of the 7 wastes of lean? 

Originally, there were 7 wastes that were described by Taiichi Ohno, the chief engineer at Toyota, as part of the Toyota Production System (TPS).  

In the waste acronym TIMWOODS, the S, or skills, is considered a waste. Why would Skills be a waste? 

Having skills is not a waste. But, not using the skills and talents of your people would be a waste since one of their ideas might be the solution you are looking for.

About the Author