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Implementing effective waste improvements

As a highly efficient lean manager in a waste conscious lean business, you will be aware of the most common forms of Waste. Once you have identified the sources of Waste, and how much it is costing your business, you should now turn your attention to the most cost-effective way to reduce different types of Waste disrupting your team and your cash flow.

After applying the DOWNTIME (Defects, Overproduction, Waiting, Not Utilising Employees, Transport, Inventory, Motion, Excessive Processing) method of identifying Waste sources in your business, it’s time to come up with solutions to combat these costly issues in your business.


Defects in product can cause costly problems for any business. It can lead to valuable material been thrown out or reworked. One solution to combat defects would be to offer concession pricing to a customer made aware of slight defects or fire-sale pricing so that defective material can still be sold. An even better solution would be to utilise the 5 Whys  to get to the bottom of quality control issues that may be amended to control unreliable processing that causes defects in the first place.


Overproduction usually occurs from making something too soon, too much of, or faster than is needed. Doesn’t sound like a big deal, right? In reality, it can become a huge problem because it hides other elements of waste, such as undetected defects in runs of inventory and product damage. One way to clearly identify where overproduction happens and how to combat it is to utilise the Kansan system  to enable the pull of production through your processes.


Reducing waiting times may be one of the easier Waste issues to tackle, but it still involves planning and execution of processes to create the right environment for improvement. One easy way to reduce waiting times is to put in place clearer communication processes so changeovers between teams and workstations are minimised.

Not Utilising Employees

One of the most wasteful actions an organisation can undertake unwittingly is to box people into a specific role with particular tasks, effectively limiting how and where they are able to contribute. Instead of limiting your people, let them explore talents that aren’t specifically a part of their job description. Sometimes a solution to a problem or a more efficient way to complete a task can be found by asking the right person with the right set of skills.


Transport waste is any form of movement that adds no value to the product. Often resource heavy and time wasting, unintended transport waste can be costly and inefficient. To reduce the amount of transport time and resources needed, consider the current layout of your team’s workspaces. Could they be changed as per the principles of lean manufacturing? If yes, then actively create value streams and make that value flow at the pull of the customer. This will requires you to think more carefully about production lines and cells, ensuring that they contain all of the value adding processes rather than a functional layout.


Inventory waste is normally unnecessary stock that has accumulated in excess of the requirements to produce goods in time to supply demand. Think of every piece of excess stock as cash that isn’t in your pocket – the cost can quickly add up. Related to combating overproduction, dealing with inventory waste requires an attitude of making the business flow around the idea of Just in Time (JIT) production. Checking in with your Kanban system will allow you to see how fast stock is required, and where resources can be better utilised to help reduce wait times between product creation and shipping.


Excessive motion in your processes can give rise to a number of problems including lowered efficiency of your team and potential early breakdown of your machinery. To tackle motion waste, direct your team to utilise the 5S  method of identifying each step in their operation to complete a task and pinpoint ways their methods of working could be improved.

Excessive Processing

Overprocessing occurs when work is added to a task but does not improve the overall value or customer experience of a product. The tendency to overprocess usually comes from a workplace having unclear standards, resulting in many workers doing more than they need to do to get the job done well. One easy way to combat overprocessing is to implement the use of Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) in the form of written instructions and guidelines. If your team knows exactly what they are doing with each task, they won’t overreach on each individual task and will be able to accomplish more.

With any or waste solution you implement, it is a good idea to focus initially on quick wins – things you can do immediately that will reduce waste almost instantly. You might also want to consider quick fixes such as putting in place a temporary solution to a problem to give you time to design a more permanent answer. The main focus should always be on dealing with those problems which are most costly to your business because they will have the biggest impact on your profits.