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8 Lean Six Sigma Wastes - A Comprehensive Guide to Identifying and Eliminating Non-Value-Added Activities

By AMREP | Posted on February 14, 2024

This Image Depicts 8 Lean Six Sigma Wastes

Lean and Six Sigma are two process improvement tools that can be used separately or together to enhance efficiency and quality. Lean is used to streamline process, while Six Sigma is used to reduce defects. Central to their operation is the identification and elimination of waste which is crucial for operational and cost efficency. This framework identifies the 8 wastes of Lean Six Sigma : defects, overproduction, waiting, non-utilized talent, transportation, inventory excess, motion, and extra-processing. Recognizing and tackling these wastes is vital for any organization aiming to thrive in today's competitive landscape and can be a powerful tool for turning potential losses into significant gains.

Waste Description Causes Effects Countermeasures
Defects Products or services that do not meet customer requirements. Poor design, manufacturing defects, inadequate inspection. Customer dissatisfaction, rework costs, warranty claims Implement quality control measures, improve process design, train employees.
Overproduction Producing more than is needed or before it is needed. Inaccurate demand forecasting, overproduction for safety stock, batch processing. Increased storage costs, obsolescence, disposal costs Improve demand forecasting, reduce batch sizes, implement just-in-time inventory.
Waiting Time spent waiting for materials, equipment, or information. Equipment breakdowns, material shortages, poor scheduling. Reduced productivity, increased lead times, missed deadlines. Reduce equipment downtime, improve scheduling, implement preventive maintenance.
Transportation Unnecessary movement of materials or people. Inefficient layout, poor routing, excessive handling. Increased transportation costs, damage to goods, lost time. Improve layout and routing, reduce handling, use automation.
Inventory Excess stock of raw materials, work-in-progress, or finished goods. Excessive lead times, large batch sizes, safety stock. Increased carrying costs, obsolescence, risk of damage. Reduce lead times, implement kanban, reduce safety stock.
Motion Unnecessary movement of people or equipment. Poor workplace organization, inefficient work methods. Reduced productivity, increased fatigue, safety hazards. Standardize work methods, eliminate unnecessary steps, use ergonomic principles.
Extra Processing Additional steps or processes that do not add value to the product or service. Redundant processes, unnecessary paperwork, over-engineering. Increased costs, longer lead times, reduced customer satisfaction. Eliminate redundant processes, streamline paperwork, use value stream mapping.
Unused Talent Underutilized skills or knowledge of employees. Lack of training, underutilization of employee skills, poor communication. Reduced employee morale, lost opportunities, decreased productivity Provide training, cross-train employees, improve communication channels.


Tackling defects is about proactive prevention, not just reactive correction. It's a commitment to quality excellence as it ensures that every product or service meets the high standards your customers expect. By minimizing defects, businesses can save costs, enhance customer satisfaction, and maintain a competitive edge in their industry.

This Image Depicts Tackling defects is about proactive prevention

Defects: More Than Just Flaws

In the Lean Six Sigma framework, 'defects' are not just minor flaws. They represent any aspect of a product or service that doesn't meet customer expectations, leading to dissatisfaction, returns, or rework. Think of a mobile phone with a faulty camera or a service with delayed responses. These are defects in the eyes of the customer.

Examples and Their Costs

Examples of defects vary across industries. In manufacturing, it could be a car with a misaligned door. In software, it might be a bug causing an app to crash. These defects cost heavily — not just in tangible repairs or replacements but also in intangible losses like customer trust and brand reputation.

Prevention is Key

Preventing defects is more cost-effective than correcting them. It starts with understanding your customer needs accurately. Quality control techniques, regular audits, and fostering a culture of continuous improvement are essential. Employee training plays a vital role, ensuring everyone understands the standards and works towards maintaining them.

Also, read about Six Sigma vs Lean in detail.


Addressing overproduction is about aligning production closely with demand. It's a balancing act that, when done right, can significantly reduce waste, lower costs, and increase efficiency. Not only does it benefit the business, it also contributes to a more sustainable, resource-efficient world. Good environmental citizenship is something that consumers increasingly expect of businesses.

Overproduction: The Excess Dilemma

Overproduction, a critical waste in Lean Six Sigma, occurs when more products or services are produced than needed. It's like baking a dozen cakes for a party of six. This excess, while it may seem like a sign of productivity, actually leads to resources being tied up in unsold products, increased storage costs, and potential waste.

Examples and Their Impact

In a clothing factory, overproduction might look like thousands of unsold garments occupying warehouse space. In software development, it could be adding features to an application that users don't need. This not only wastes materials and time but also diverts focus from meeting actual customer demands.

Curbing the Overproduction Waste

The key to preventing overproduction lies in understanding demand. Implementing a 'just-in-time' production system ensures products are only made when there's a real need. Regular communication with customers and market analysis helps with forecasting demand more accurately. Additionally, streamlining production processes to be more flexible can reduce the tendency to overproduce.


Waiting in Six Sigma refers to any idle time or delay in the production process where work isn’t been performed. Identifying non-productive time and addressing this can improve organisational and manufacturing performance.

Examples of Waiting

This Image Depicts Waiting in Six Sigma

Here are some examples of waiting:

  • Operators or machines remaining idle
  • Waiting for breakdowns to be resolved
  • Waiting for information from stakeholders
  • Operators being idle while waiting for another process to be completed

Common Causes of Delays

Waiting frequently stems from unbalanced workloads, device malfunctions, or inefficient system designs. For example, a gadget breakdown in a production line can halt production, causing a cascade of delays. Being overly bureaucratic and constantly requiring staff to seek approval for actions can also lead to delays.

The Ripple Effect of Waiting

The impact of waiting is going beyond slow production activity. It can lead to neglected deadlines, multiplied strain for employees, and in the long run, dissatisfied customers. In competitive business environments, timeliness is essential to an organisation’s success.

Strategies to Minimize Waiting

To reduce waiting, streamline processes and ensure smooth workflows. Employing equipment like workflow analysis and technique mapping can pick out bottlenecks. Adopting technology, like virtual approvals, also can cut down on waiting time. Effective deployment of personnel and constantly reviewing their work actions can help with reducing waiting.

Transportation Waste

Addressing transportation and motion waste requires studying how personnel and materials move in your organisation. By designing extra efficient movement pathways, both physically and in workflows, companies can lessen this waste, enhancing business efficiency and effectiveness.

Transportation Waste: The Unnecessary Journey

In Lean Six Sigma, transportation waste refers to any non-productive movement of products and materials.

Why Does Transportation Waste Happen?

Often, transportation waste outcomes from poor layout design, insufficient process planning, or overcomplicated methods for moving materials and human resources around. In a production setting, this can be components being moved back and forth across a facility. In an office, it can be documents or records that are shuttled between departments.

The Cost of Unnecessary Movement

Transportation waste can increase the danger of harm and mistakes. It ends in longer lead instances, higher costs, or even employee fatigue, which in turn results in lower business efficiency.

Cutting Down on Transportation Waste

Minimizing this waste involves streamlining materials and labor flow. Reorganizing workplace layouts so that workstations are closer can significantly lessen movement. In offices, digitizing files can eliminate shipping and postage costs altogether. Another key strategy is technique reengineering to ensure smoother and direct workflows.

Also, read about 5 Phases Of Six Sigma in detail.


Managing inventory waste means effectively managing your finished goods, work in progress, and raw materials.

Inventory Waste: The Burden of Excess

Inventory waste in Lean Six Sigma is about maintaining more material inputs or products than what is required. It can also refer to the resources used to produce unsold items or unused materials.

Root Causes of Inventory Pileup

This waste often originates from over-ordering, misguided forecasting, or inefficient production procedures. It's like stocking up on too many groceries that might be unused. In a commercial enterprise context, this results in excessive capital being locked in, affecting cash flow and operational flexibility.

The Negative Effects of Excess Inventory

Excess inventory can suggest the ineffective use and unnecessary purchasing of materials. This can also indicate inefficient supply chain management.

Strategies to Streamline Inventory

Reducing inventory waste calls for a 'simply-in-time' approach — retaining what you need, whilst you need it. This involves improving demand forecasting and enhancing vendor relationships for quicker turnaround. Technology performs a vital role too; present day inventory control ERP systems can offer real-time information to make informed choices.

Also, read about VDA 6.3 Process Audit.


Tackling motion waste involves ensuring the movements of man or machine are only what’s required.

This Image Depicts Tackling motion

Motion Waste: The Unseen Efficiency Drainer

Motion waste in Lean Six Sigma refers to unnecessary movements by humans. An example is an employee taking walks to and fro to fetch equipment or documents, or continuously moving along the production site. Each of those movements, while small, provides up to huge time lost.

Why Does Motion Waste Occur?

This waste frequently stems from poor workspace layout, inefficient process design, and poor workflows. A cluttered workbench or a poorly designed production layout forces unnecessary movement, hindering easy workflow.

The Hidden Costs of Unnecessary Motion

The effects of motion waste can be more than physical fatigue. It contributes to longer production times, reduced productivity, and even an increased risk of workplace accidents. Over time, it may result in worker dissatisfaction and decreased morale.

Streamlining Movements for Efficiency

Reducing motion waste requires a considered analysis of workspaces and business operations. Implementing the 5S method (Sort, Set so as, Shine, Standardize, Sustain) can dramatically enhance workspace organization. Ergonomically designed workspaces and strategically locating equipment decrease needless movement. In designing workflows, the personnel involved in carrying out the work actions should be consulted as they may be the ones most acquainted with the daily motions of their work activities.

Over - Processing

In Lean Six Sigma, over processing means performing operations that the customer does not require.

Root Causes of Over-Processing

Over processing often results from unclear specifications, lack of standardised process methods, or miscommunication. It can be as easy as applying pointless polish to a product or as complex as redundant information entry in an office setting.

The Impact of Unnecessary Effort

Over-processing can result in added costs to the organisation and their customers. It can extend lead times and over-complicate production processes.

Cutting Down on the Extras

Eliminating over-processing begins with obtaining information on what exactly the customer wants — no more, no less. Streamlining processes via standardization, good communication, and non-stop feedback loops can eliminate this waste.

Unused Talent

Lean Six Sigma also sees unutilised personnel creativity and talent as a waste. It calls for organisations to foster a work culture that celebrates and makes use of the diverse talents of each team member. By doing so, companies can achieve more creativity, innovation, and personnel engagement.

Unlocking the Full Potential of Your Team

Unused expertise in Lean Six Sigma is similar to an untapped goldmine inside an enterprise. It takes place whilst personnel' talents, expertise, and creativity aren't absolutely applied or recognized. Not identifying this waste can significantly reduce the organisation’s competitiveness.

Roots of Untapped Potential

The reasons of unused talent can vary from hierarchical management structures that restrict creativity to poor human resource management practices that don’t identify the personnel’s talents.

The Hidden Costs

The effects of unused expertise can be profound. It leads to employee disengagement, a decrease in morale, and a loss of innovation. Having good employee morale is the first driver for business success.

Cultivating Every Employee's Capabilities

Effectively utilising expertise includes recognizing and nurturing each employee's specific talents. This may be accomplished via:

  • Encouraging open conversation and idea sharing.
  • Providing opportunities for professional improvement and cross-training.
  • Creating a culture that values and utilizes numerous perspectives and capabilities.

Explore Our Manufacturing Excellence Solutions!

Do you know whether there is waste in your or your supplier’s production activities? If you don’t, it’s probably a good idea to find out as this can improve productivity levels which translates to better yields and lower costs. Typically, OEM companies use certified independent Lean Six Sigma professionals to review their vendor’s production, identify waste reduction opportunities, and develop the vendor’s capabilities to eliminate these wastes.

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