The 7 Wastes of Lean Production

Written by: Leah Gourley

Read Time: 2 min

The lean method of production is a philosophy developed by the Toyota Production System. It focuses on eliminating inefficiency while delivering the highest level of value to the customer.

The 7 wastes, known as ‘muda’, are the various forms of inefficiency that the lean production systems seek to eliminate. Waste, by definition, is something that adds no value. By removing these forms of inefficiency, you can boost your manufacturing plant’s productivity and return-on-investment.

Here is a run-through of all the forms of ‘muda’, so you know how to best eliminate them.


Overproduction is the most obvious form of manufacturing waste. Not only does it lead to depleted raw materials, but also to wasted storage and excess capital tied up in unused products.

If you consistently overproduce, you may be forced to dispose of your product which can have a serious environmental impact. The process of disposal also creates wasted human effort and can pose the risk of exposing your workers to harmful waste materials.

The aim is to only produce what is required by the customer. Lean production relies on the ‘just-in-time’ principle, meaning your product should be created at the time it is needed, and not before.


This is the waste that is associated with unprocessed inventory. This includes the waste capital tied up in excess stock, wasted transport used moving the inventory, the light, and heating used to store the capacity and the containers used to store the excess product. Excess inventory can also hide other forms of inefficiencies that are produced by your current workflows.


Defects refer to a product not meeting the specifications expected by the customer. Defects lead to a huge waste of time, starting in the form of paperwork. The product then needs to be disposed of and reproduced, which also costs time and money.

Defects also lead to lost customers and reputation. It is, therefore, an exponentially costly form of waste.


Motion wastage is any movement made that could have been used for another purpose. This results in a form of wastage as it is unnecessary energy and time. Wasted motion can be anything from a factory worker bending over to pick something up, to an unnecessary trip made by a machine.


Lean manufacturing relies on products delivering value to the customer, but not over-engineering any product. Any work that doesn’t need to be done, shouldn’t be done. Over-processing is essentially delivering more value than is needed by the customer.


This is any form of waiting that must be done by either staff or machinery to complete a task. This will frequently happen when one process along the production line takes longer than it needs to, resulting in wasted worker time. Employees can be paid when not being productive, and materials can be spoilt when waiting for production.


Transportation is the process of moving something from one place to another. Transportation itself does not add any value to the customer, so it should be minimized as much possible. This can be done by making plants closer together and minimizing the cost of transportation.

Additional forms of waste

Waste can also come in the form of wasted talent and resources. By not harnessing the real power of your workforce, you are missing out on crucial opportunities to optimize your manufacturing plant. Not utilizing your resources efficiently, like your electricity, gas, and water can result in unnecessary expenditures and can have a poor impact on the environment.

Digital Manufacturing and Inefficiency

The best way to maximize efficiency and eliminate waste is to understand the functioning of your plant. You should focus on efficiency and not waste. By maximizing your efficiency, you will see waste dissolve from your manufacturing line.

Digital manufacturing can give you access to data that you would have never had before. Connected sensors can feedback production and performance data in real-time, helping you to understand where inefficiency is coming from.

By utilizing the power of information, you can eliminate inefficient procedures faster, giving your manufacturing plant a competitive edge in the evolving manufacturing world.

Drive Manufacturing Efficiency

Learn more about our digital manufacturing solutions. Get Started
Tags: Industrial Connectivity

About the Author

Leah Gourley

Leah Gourley is a Digital Content Marketing Specialist based out of PTC's Boston office. She enjoys creating and sharing content surrounding the latest technologies that are transforming industries, including augmented reality and the industrial internet of things.