The 8 Wastes of Lean Manufacturing: Examples and How to Reduce Their Impact in Your Factory

Did you know that there are 8 forms of waste that covertly drain your factory’s resources? Yet, what are these 8 forms of waste? How to spot them? And how can you eliminate them from your factory once and for all? Check out our latest article on the 8 lean manufacturing wastes:
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Published on:
06 February 2024
Updated on:
30 May 2024

In the world of manufacturing, there are 8 forms of waste that must be anticipated. These wastes drain your organization’s coffers and your employees’ valuable time. And even worse – many managers and shop floor workers aren’t even aware of these 8 wastes’ very existence.

Among industrial practitioners worldwide, they’re collectively known as the “8 wastes of lean manufacturing.” Yet, what are these 8 forms of waste? How do you detect them? And how can you reduce or even eliminate these 8 wastes?

In this article, we will cover each of the 8 wastes in lean manufacturing in detail, including several examples, how to spot and mitigate them, how to implement the lean manufacturing principles in a real-life setting, and some lean manufacturing tools that you can use.

At the end of the article, we will also provide you with a free-to-download lean manufacturing e-book PDF, so you can start implementing the lean manufacturing principles and remove the 8 wastes right away.

The 8 Wastes of Lean Manufacturing

Without further delay, here are the 8 forms of waste in lean manufacturing:

An infographic features eight blue icons representing waste types in manufacturing: Defective Products, Excessive Processing, Overproduction, Idle Resources, Having to Store Items, Unnecessary Motions, Transportation, and Underutilized Human Resources.

Defective Products

The first waste that we will cover is defective products. This waste refers to a product that doesn’t fulfill the existing quality standards – be it your internal quality control requirements, industry-wide standards, or government-issued regulations.

A defective product must be either reworked, disposed of, or recalled – if they’re already out in the market. All three possibilities will burden your organization’s finances and drain your employees’ precious time.

Furthermore, having defective products will also stain your company’s reputation – and all its goods. Especially if the defects risk your customers’ safety.

For instance, Ford had to recall around 169,000 vehicles, which cost the company USD 270 million. The reason? Problems with rearview parking cameras that reduce the drivers’ visibility – thus affecting their safety.

How Do We Reduce the Possibility of Defective Products?

Product defects can be caused by various factors. Thus, there’s no silver bullet solution that can magically prevent all possibilities of defects at once. Moreover, each product has its own production process – with its own specific quality control process.

Nonetheless, there are several common solutions that can be applied to most industries. For starters, in addition to the mandatory quality certification regime set by the government, you can also use voluntary third-party quality standards as a benchmark. Adopting standards published by the globally respected ISO is a good place to start.

Additionally, digitalizing your quality control process is also another brilliant step. Instead of human quality controllers, you can use digital quality control systems. Such systems usually consist of cameras and sensors that are connected to an AI-based quality controller. Popular vendors include IBM’s Maximo Visual InspectionZeiss’ Automated Defect Detection, and Omron’s FH Vision System.

Compared to conventional human quality control officers, these digital quality controllers are more precise and can check products at a much faster rate. Additionally, they can work almost non-stop and in environments where human quality controllers cannot – such as extreme temperatures, tight spaces, and other non-human-suitable situations.

Check out our free ISO 9001:2015 e-book PDF and Industry 4.0 Quality Management System Template PDF and use them as your reference in upgrading your quality control process.

Close-up of an industrial machine featuring a conveyor belt moving cylindrical metal parts. The setup includes various sensors and mechanical components, with a focus sensor mounted above the conveyor. The machinery comprises metal and plastic parts with connecting wires.

Excessive Processing

Another form of waste in lean manufacturing is excessive processing. Excessive processing means that a product’s quality is too high. But how come this is a bad thing? Isn’t the higher a product’s quality is, the better?

The problem comes in the amount of resources and time needed to produce this overly-processed product. A product’s quality correlates with the amount of resources and time spent to produce it. If you produce something that goes far beyond your customers’ needs, then you will also spend more resources and time making this product.

The result: either your product will be more expensive compared to your competitors – or you will have an extremely thin profit margin for each product sold. Examples of excessive processing include:

  • Using a material that is of a higher grade than what your customers expect (e.g., using expensive ebony wood for low-cost furniture – instead of the more affordable pine wood).
  • Including features your customers most likely don’t need (e.g., an overly high-resolution camera in a low-end smartphone. Not only that feature doesn’t match its budget range, but high-resolution images take a large amount of storage space – which low-end smartphones usually don’t have too much of).
  • Adding intricate hand-made carvings to a budget car’s interior is an unnecessary feature for a budget car, as its users only need an affordable vehicle to take them from point A to B. A luxurious interior is more suitable for high-end cars.

How to Prevent Excessive Processing?

The most critical element of preventing excessive processing of your products is knowing precisely what your customer wants from your products. This information can be obtained from:

  • Organizing surveys and customer focus group sessions
  • Studying the patterns of past customer feedback and complaints
  • Analyzing the features and quality of your competitors’ products


Overproduction means producing more goods than what’s needed. As a result, some of your products will be left unsold – wasting the resources used in making them without ever turning a profit.

Sometimes, producing more goods than what the market demands is a good idea. Thus, your distributors will have a sufficient stock of your goods and a buffer in case of supply chain disruptions in the future.

This strategy is known as the “push system.” Here, manufacturers produce as many goods as possible, then send them to the distributors and market them to potential customers. Thus, manufacturers produce the goods and “push” them away toward the distributors and customers.

The push system is suitable in industries with always stable demand, and it doesn’t cost many resources to produce an item. The fast-moving consumer goods and the textile industries are a good example.

However, in other industries, where demands fluctuate from time to time and it takes a significant amount of resources to produce goods (such as automotive, shipbuilding, and other heavy industries), the push system is not recommended. Unsold goods, especially in large quantities, will cause tremendous losses to your organization’s finances.

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How to Prevent Overproduction?

Instead of the push system, lean manufacturing practitioners would recommend using the “pull system” instead. In this strategy, an item will only be produced if there’s a confirmed order for it. If not, then that item will not be produced. Hence, it is as if customers “pull” the items that they’ve ordered from the factory themselves.

For example, a car factory received an order for 15 units of SUVs. With the pull system, that factory will only produce 15 units of SUVs – not more nor less. All materials & components ordered from the suppliers are also based on these 15 units.

Having an inventory, be it for materials, components, or finished products, is discouraged in the pull system. This system ensures that all items produced will have a buyer – and that no resources involved in the production process are ever wasted.

Idle Resources

Having your production resources (e.g., your employees and production machines) idle is another form of waste. When idle, they’re not producing any value for your company. Yet, at the same time, upkeep in the form of employee salaries, maintenance costs, and utility bills are still being charged to your coffers.

Idleness can happen due to various causes. Some idlenesses occur due to unforeseen circumstances. For example, a machine suddenly breaks down and can no longer function.

Consequently, you’ll have to pause production until a technician comes with the required spare parts and fixes this problem. Other machines and employees in that assembly line will also remain idle until the issue is resolved – as a backlog in one part of the assembly line will also affect other parts as well.

Pausing production can be notoriously expensive. Of course, financial losses due to production vary from one industry to another. According to a report from Siemens, an average downtime in the automotive sector costs around USD 2 million/hour. Hence, unplanned downtimes should be avoided at all costs.

Moreover, idleness can also happen due to an inefficient production process. A production bottleneck frequently occurs in the quality control process. Often, a plant’s capacity to do quality control is only a fraction of its production volume.

As a result, many goods will have to wait before they undergo the quality control process. This is a form of waste, as they’ll sit idle instead of being directly sent to the distributors or customers.

How to Minimize Idle Time?

Several measures can be taken to prevent idleness. For example, to prevent unexpected downtimes, you’ll need to execute regular Total Productive Maintenance for all machines in your plant.

Meanwhile, to avoid production bottlenecks in the quality control process, you can adopt an in-line quality control approach instead. In this approach, products undergo quality control while they’re being produced simultaneously.

The best way of applying in-line quality control is by attaching cameras and sensors to your production machines. Then, data captured by these cameras and sensors will be analyzed by human or AI-based quality controllers. This approach significantly cuts quality control time and minimizes production bottlenecks.

Having to Store Items

When visiting a factory, you’ll most likely see a large warehouse standing next to it. There are multiple uses for a warehouse, such as to store materials, components, and finished products before they’re sent to distributors or customers. Although sometimes they’re indeed needed, having a warehouse is a drain on your budget.

Building or renting a warehouse is a large expense to begin with. Especially if they’re located in a desired area, such as in an industrial park or near a port. Add that with warehouse staffing costs, utilities such as electricity, and tools & machinery, including forklifts and warehouse management software.

Therefore, keeping your storage needs as minimum as possible is in your best interest. Yet, how can you do it?

How to Minimize Storage Needs?

Any lean manufacturing practitioner will immediately recommend using the pull system production strategy instead of the inventory-heavy push system. In the pull system, you’ll only order materials & components based on customers’ orders – leaving none for inventory.

Furthermore, finished products will be sent directly to the customers – and none will be stored in your facility. In addition, there are numerous best practices for minimizing storage space. Check out this guide to learn several space-efficient storage techniques.

Unnecessary Motions

Do you know that the movement of people can also be considered a form of waste and consumes your organization’s resources? But how come? How is it even possible?

Manufacturing plans are typically enormous in terms of floor area. They typically range from a few thousand square feet to Tesla’s Texas Gigafactory 10 million square feet plant.

Hence, it’s common for employees to spend a portion of their working time walking. Be it moving between workstations, to a tool depot, to take a meal or coffee at the cafeteria, or simply to the toilet occasionally. Time spent on walking means time not spent on activities that are not directly related to production.

How to Reduce Unnecessary Motions?

To reduce unnecessary motion, you’ll need to work on your plant’s layout. It’s recommended to install permanent lean manufacturing workstations across your shop floor. Then, connect these workstations with conveyor belts.

Thus, your shop floor employees don’t need to move to different workstations to do their work. Instead, their work will come to their workstations using these conveyor belts. Additionally, install a tool cabinet in each workstation so your employees can immediately access their tools and return them once they’re done.

If necessary, you can also install snack & drink vending machines near each workstation. These additions will minimize unnecessary movements in your plant and increase your shop floor employees’ productivity.

A worker wearing a blue cap and shirt oversees a production line of large blue water bottles in a brightly lit factory. The bottles are lined up in rows, and the environment appears clean and organized. Worker In The Background Water Bottling Plant. Safety Concerns, Production Volume, Benefits Of Process Automation, Current Automation Technology, Installing Automation Systems


Excessive transportation is also another form of waste in lean manufacturing. Transporting goods costs your organization’s money and time – especially if it involves international shipping.

For example, a smartphone consists of numerous components. A smartphone might be designed in the US, the screen produced in South Korea, its semiconductor from Taiwan, the lithium used to make its battery was sourced from Chile, and all of these components are assembled and packed at a plant in China – before being shipped to the gadget store in your town.

Every time these items are sent somewhere, there are always shipping costs. Not to mention import taxes whenever they enter into a new country.

Should You Switch to Local Suppliers to Minimize Transport?

Sometimes, due to lower labor costs or a region’s natural/human resources advantages, this intricate network of transporting goods is worth the cost and time.

Thus, it’s best to evaluate your products’ supply chain. Is it a financially wise decision to source your components and materials from far-away overseas locations? Or is it better to switch to suppliers who are more nearby instead?

Underutilized Human Resources

Last but not least, underutilizing your employees’ resourcefulness is another form of waste in lean manufacturing. It’s also the hardest one to detect.
Commonly wasted employee resources include:

  • Employees’ time (e.g., burdening employees with filling unnecessary administrative paperwork, taking the time that otherwise could have been spent on the shop floor)
  • Employees’ skills (e.g., assigning employees to tasks that don’t correspond with their skill set and competency level)
  • Employees’ tribal knowledge and experience (e.g., not asking retiring experienced employees to pass their insights to junior employees)

How to Fully Utilize Your Employees’ Potentials?

  • Here are some tips to maximize your human resources:
  • Eliminate all unnecessary paperwork and digitalize all administrative procedures whenever possible
  • Have an individual report for each employee, detailing their full skill range and training history
  • Use a skill matrix to visualize your employees’ skill levels
  • Assign employees to tasks that match their skill levels
  • Organize routine training programs
  • Pair experienced employees with junior employees in a corporate mentorship program

Lean Manufacturing

Now that all of the 8 waste forms have been thoroughly explained, it’s time to ask the main question: how can you reduce their presence, or even eliminate them entirely?

The answer lies in lean manufacturing, whose main objective is removing all the aforementioned wastes. Yet, how can you use lean manufacturing to reduce or eliminate waste in your plant? What are the benefits of implementing lean manufacturing in your plant?

Lean Manufacturing’s Background

Before diving deeper into the technical aspects of lean manufacturing, let’s delve into its history and its impact on the manufacturing sector. The modern-day idea of lean manufacturing was introduced by Taiichi Ōhno -an industrial engineer from Toyota.

In 1956, he went to the US and visited several automobile factories. There, he took note of the American auto manufacturers’ production system and learned of their strengths and weaknesses. In addition, he was astonished by the then-new American concept of supermarkets. In a supermarket, a customer can simply “pull” a product from the rack – and an employee will just restock the depleted store racks.

This trip inspired him to found the legendary Toyota Production System. This system was perfected with time and included several manufacturing philosophies such as KaizenJidokaHeijunka, and the Just-in-Time Production System.  Additionally, there are also lean manufacturing philosophies that did not originate from Toyota, such as First Time Right.

Due to its immense impact on production efficiency, the Toyota Production System has been thoroughly studied and has spread across the globe. The advantages of lean manufacturing can be observed in this McKinsey article written by Deryl Sturdevant, a former President and CEO of Canadian Autoparts Toyota (CAPTIN).

Based on his observations, changing the metal die used to make aluminum alloy wheels typically takes 4-5 hours using conventional methods. With the Toyota Production System implemented, his plant can do it in less than an hour. This lean manufacturing case study is only one of the many examples of how impactful this production doctrine is.

Thanks to efficiency enhancements, it’s no wonder that Toyota dominates the global automotive industry. In 2022, Toyota was the world’s best-selling automaker, a title it has defended for three continuous years.

Not sure whether implementing lean manufacturing is worth your funds and time? See our guide to lean manufacturing metrics and ROI measurement to help you calculate its potential ROI for your plant.

Lean Manufacturing’s Principles

Now, it’s time to explore the doctrine that made Toyota and many other implementing companies so powerful: lean manufacturing. This doctrine consists of 5 principles that must be followed in this particular order:

  1. Identifying What Your Customers Value
  2. Value Stream Mapping
  3. Creating a Lean Manufacturing Flow
  4. Establishing a Pull System
  5. Kaizen (Continuous Improvement)
A five-step diagram illustrating the lean manufacturing process. The steps are: 1. Identifying What's Your Customers’ Value, 2. Value Stream Mapping, 3. Creating a Lean Manufacturing Flow, 4. Establishing a Pull System, and 5. Kaizen (Continuous Improvement).

Learn more on the 5 lean manufacturing principles.

From time to time, lean manufacturing is frequently mixed up with agile manufacturing. Even though they share names that sound similar to most people, they are, in fact, two separate doctrines with different principles and goals. Learn more about agile manufacturing vs lean manufacturing differences.

Lean Manufacturing Software Tools

Removing the 8 wastes and implementing the lean manufacturing principles are by no means an easy task. See how digital tools such as Azumuta will make your lean manufacturing transition an easy and stress-free process.

Digital Work Instructions

Detecting and removing the 8 forms of waste is a highly technical process. Not everyone can easily grasp the concept of waste and the lean manufacturing principles. Therefore, as a manager, it’s your responsibility to ensure that all of your shop floor workers understand and execute your waste elimination plan as intended.

Our Digital Work Instructions module happens to be the most suitable tool for that purpose. With this tool, you can create easily understandable work instructions in just a few minutes – thanks to our drag-and-drop nature. Support your work instructions with visual elements like pictures, videos, symbols, and even 3D models for extra clarity.

A woman, dressed in a black uniform, is seen working in a factory or warehouse setting. She is scanning an item with a handheld scanner while looking at a computer monitor displaying inventory or product information. Yellow bins and machinery surround her workstation.

For extra oversight, your employees can capture images & videos from the shop floor and communicate with any other user with this module. This feature grants easy coordination between users and a quicker problem resolution.

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Audits & Digital Checklists

Eliminating the 8 lean manufacturing wastes is a rigorous process. From taking regular Total Productive Maintenance to installing AI quality control systems, everything must be done meticulously.

You can’t miss a single step or forget any detail – no matter how minuscule it is. That’s precisely why you’ll need our Audits & Digital Checklists module. With this module, you can create and manage straightforward digital checklists for any purpose – supported by images and videos.

A computer screen displaying a 5S audit checklist. The checklist contains columns for different audit items such as instruction steps, check conditions, severity, and notes. There are various sections like Sort, Set in Order, and Shine, with corresponding questions and n/a entries.

You can set up a digital workflow for your shop floor employees – complete with automated reminder notifications sent to their devices. Thus, your employees will have total clarity on what needs to be done, and they will never omit any single step thanks to our automated reminders.

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Even after you’ve removed one or more of the 8 lean manufacturing wastes, it’s still necessary to run an audit in your plant from time to time. It’s crucial to ensure that your improvements will remain and detect whether any of these wastes still linger.

With this module, doing audits will be a walk in the park. You can effortlessly plan and execute audits due to its abundance of features, starting from creating an audit timetable, assigning tasks to your employees, monitoring your audit’s progress in real-time, and even generating automatically written audit reports. All of these features will save your precious time and energy,-freeing them for other more productive tasks.

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Quality Management

In order to eliminate the 8 forms of waste, you’ll first need to detect their existence and pinpoint where they lie. This is a challenging task, as many forms of waste are difficult to spot with the naked eye. For example, how do you know whether all of your machines are fully operational and none are idle or having a downtime? Or how can you tell the lead time of every single item produced in your plant?

Worry not, as our Quality Management module is the perfect tool for this role. This module integrates countless peripheral devices from your shop floor, ranging from thermal guns to barcode scanners. Connect them to our software, and they will send their real-time data to your PC, tablet, and smartphone.

Afterward, you can gather these data and transform them into a centralized data visualization dashboard. Thus, with this rich data fed continuously into your device, you’ll always be aware of all ongoing production processes on the shop floor without ever leaving the comfort of your desk.

Hence, you can easily monitor and analyze all key production statistics from your office without ever needing to manually check each machine on the shop floor. Detecting inefficiency and waste has never been easier.

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To boot, make sure that your products are always defect-free by conforming to the existing industry quality standards. Use our module’s compliance checklist to keep track of every part of your production process – and match them with the requirements set by these standards. If there are irregularities, you’ll know them immediately.

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Our Quality Management module is truly your digital lean manufacturing-supporting companion.

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Skill Matrix & Training

Your employees are at the forefront of implementing the lean manufacturing production system on your shop floor. That’s why they need proper lean manufacturing training, and their knowledge should be assessed regularly.

And there’s no better tool to do so than our Skill Matrix & Training module. With it, you can plan employee training programs with just a few clicks. Select the participants, attach the training materials, and create a training schedule. Our software will send automated reminders to your employees’ devices when training is due.

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To boot, you can create a fully functional skill matrix in a matter of minutes thanks to our pre-existing template. You’ll only need to input your employees’ names and skill levels; our software will do the rest.

It will even calculate the skill level of each employee and color-code them automatically. Use it to assess your lean manufacturing engineers’ skills from time to time and keep track of their training history. Our module will also generate an individualized report for each employee – granting you a deeper insight into every employee’s full potential.

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Keep track of your employee’s training progress and competencies
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Free Lean Manufacturing E-Book

Learn more about lean manufacturing with our freely downloadable e-book

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