business growth · Lean Manufacturing · profit

Lean Thinking – The 7 Wastes

Lean Thinking and what does it mean for your company?


Like you I hear words like “LEAN” and “5S” being used extensively in manufacturing circles.

But what does it mean exactly?

How will your company benefit?

What will the future state of your business look like once implemented?

In fact Lean is not really about 5S at all, it’s much more than that if we embed the lean culture in the mindset of everyone. For this to be successful, your management team must fully support it, believe in it & nurture it. You will need to allocate resources towards training (both time & dollars), you need to promote and encourage lean thinking in every aspect of the business because the leaner the business becomes, the more profitable it will become.

Why do I say that? Because you have already quoted a fixed price for the job so you determine your cost (and therefore your profit) by how much waste you are willing to tolerate!!

 The objective therefore of Lean is to identify, analyse, and eliminate all sources of waste in all operations.

 The Seven Deadly Wastes: 

Overproduction: this is producing more than is required to meet customer demand. . A root cause analysis of the processes would uncover the real inefficiencies whether it is set-up time, lack of training, poor methodologies etc then working on a solution. If there is no system “pulling” the work thru, each department will manage its own work, keeping its workers and work centres busy; unfortunately not on the  work needed!! A thorough understanding by all supervisors, programmers, planners and managers of “The Theory of Constraints” would greatly help here.

Waiting: due to poor planning, we see a lot of  waiting – waiting on material, information, machines, tooling & forklifts. Better planning and educating people to do something while waiting will greatly assist here.

Transport: Moving of parts unnecessarily is a waste. Look at planning, layout and processes to minimize this.

Over-processing: Best explained as fit for purpose e.g. finish pass (with finishing tool) when machining a dimension that  does not require it or tighter than necessary tolerances. Eliminate anything that does not add value to the customer.

Inventory: Excess stock of anything is waste. Look at the supplier holding stock instead of your store or consignment stock.

Motion: Again any movement of people, machines or material that does not add value is a waste. Look at cellular layouts, 5S and Kaizen to eliminate waste here.

Correction of defects: Rework costs time and money as well as the MPO. Poka-Yoke can greatly assist in this area. Poka-Yoke or mistake proofing should be used to avoid the kind of mistakes we see all too commonly e.g. the plunging of tool in rapid into the part. Look at the methodologies used and ask what can go wrong?

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