How to Reduce Waste in Lean Manufacturing

Every operation within your business will either add value or produce waste. Lean manufacturing is all about eliminating those activities that don’t add value, cutting down on the waste that comes with processes that lower your efficiency. It’s about focusing instead on operation flows that reduce waste, rather than create it.

So how do we do this? First, it’s essential to identify which processes are creating waste. There are eight categories:

  • Defects
  • Overproduction
  • Waiting
  • Non-utilised talent
  • Transportation
  • Inventory
  • Motion
  • Extra-processing

 The acronym DOWNTIME can be used to remember them.



When an item fails to meet specific quality control standards or criteria set out by the customers, it’s classed as defect waste. These defective products are deemed unfit for use- and because the product will either need to be reworked or disposed of entirely, the result is a loss of time, resources and funds. 

Defects can occur for many reasons: substandard design; overly-complex manufacturing processes; too many variables in the manufacturing process; lack of employee training; lack of proper storage and more.



Overproduction can result in huge waste for businesses. Producing too many goods can be down to poor or inaccurate demand forecasting; inefficient production plans or unproductive workspaces for example.

Poor management can also result in overproduction, especially if organisations opt-in to push-system manufacturing. The risks of this need to be carefully assessed to avoid waste.



Waiting can cause a number of issues for manufacturing. When processes are disrupted, workflows become unbalanced and co-dependent processes are in turn also delayed. This creates a ripple effect, where efficiency and productivity are severely impacted, simply because items are ‘stuck’ waiting their turn on the production line.

 It leads to bottlenecks, unintended downtime and a rise in production costs- all of which will have an impact on the next production cycle too. Usually, waiting is the result of poor production planning, poor inventory management or lack of organisation in the warehouse.


Non-utilised talent

 Failing to acknowledge and take advantage of employee skills- and allocating them to appropriate tasks- is a huge waste. When staff aren’t utilised efficiently, a whole host of opportunities are lost, and the result is an inefficient and unproductive process overall.



 Needless transportation of raw materials, WIP inventory or finished goods can result in huge waste too. Inefficient warehouse layouts or poor production line planning can result in excessive transportation causing unnecessary moving, longer lead time and extra work. Leading to a rise in deterioration of machinery- and inventory- over time, and a much higher risk of damage too.



 Poor inventory management leads to a rise in overheads and can not only cause congestion in the premises but rising storage costs too. Usually, overstocking is to blame, and over time this extra stock will lose its value as quality declines- more often than not, down to inaccurate demand forecasting and over-buying.



Motion waste, although similar to transport waste, refers to the waste that accrues when employees and their equipment carry out unnecessary motions during their daily tasks. So each time an employee is forced to walk to another part of the workplace due to its layout, or to lift an item that could have been placed more accessibly- this creates motion waste that can add up fairly quickly.

Further impacts of motion waste include a reduction in workplace safety; a decline in productivity and an increased risk of repetitive strain injuries and employee motivation.



 Extra-processing can occur when an employee or their equipment is simply too highly skilled for the tasks assigned, or if the materials being used are more than the finished product requires. Likewise, if the production process includes extra steps that don’t add value to the finished product, this can also lead to waste, higher costs in general and longer lead times overall.

 Again, non-utilised talent is an issue here, and using equipment that is better suited to a more complex process has negative effects too.

 How to reduce waste in lean management

So how can you turn this around, eliminate the waste and make your business streamlined, efficient and cost-effective? Manufacturing software.

 Manufacturing software can be one of the best ways to hone in on the production failings that are costing your business, increasing efficiency and productivity and cutting down on waste exponentially.

This can be done by:

  • Improving processes and automation: manufacturing software can automate specific processes to reduce time spent doing them manually. This increases productivity, cuts the risk of errors and frees employees up, enabling them to put their skills to better use.
  • Improving decision-making: having access to real-time data can bring unity to the entire manufacturing operation, with every single process being recorded so that accurate decisions can be made. This is crucial in terms of identifying and rectifying potential hold-ups, ensuring quality control and informing future planning too. With up-to-date inventory records, production costs can be kept low, and lead times calculated more accurately too.
  • Improving production scheduling: manufacturing software can accurately assess customer demand against stock levels and production capacities, meaning that production can be aligned perfectly with demand at all times.
  • Improving inventory optimisation and traceability: manufacturing software allows you to match what you need with real-world demand for materials, reducing the risks of overstocking or being unable to get stock at all. With real-time data showing inventory levels, how the stock is moving and specific shop-floor processes, businesses are now able to improve traceability and eliminate both inventory and transportation waste.

If you would like to discuss how we can help your business by making sure you are utilising your talent to ensure lean manufacturing best practices please get in touch.

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