The 8 Wastes: Introduction

In quality improvement, we look for 8 common wastes. They are not entirely comprehensive, nor exclusive. The wastes are cues for issues you have ignored or forgotten. I will write comprehensive posts for each waste. For now, here is a brief summary, with examples:

1: Waiting

This is the most obvious, any time people are left waiting. Sure, people could take the opportunity to meditate or check their phones, but they would usually prefer to do something else, somewhere else. This category can also be used to identify idle equipment that could be utilized.

2: Inventory

Photo by Artem Beliaikin on

Many situations can lead to piles of stuff you don’t use. Because we don’t specifically pay for the space taken by each item, it seems like the clutter is harmless. For anyone in a city, real estate is often the largest expense. There is also the risk of spoilage and obsolescence. Worse yet, more things require more management. either to keep it all organized, or to fight through it to do what you want.

3: Transportation

*** Example and by no means comprehensive or accurate ***

How much time and energy is spent travelling from one destination to another? Is it a kind of travel you enjoy? The further you travel, the more you’ll rely on expensive equipment or services. Such dependence can cause significant stress, and expense. The insurance of my cheap car is already double the cost of a bus pass, or enough to buy a quality bicycle in less than a year.. Regular commutes can be bad enough without poor weather or other disruptions.

4: Motion

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Extra or unsafe movement, often the result of poorly organized spaces. People are tempted to group by categories, rather than use. With only a few items, in a tiny space, no problem. Unfortunately, this often leads to larger groupings in large spaces, forcing us into a strange interpretive dance. My cups to the south, the kettle to the east, teabags to the west, and sink to the north.

5: Over processing

Most activities are more complicated than they should be. Which steps actually contribute to the desired result or experience? The ideal process would be somewhere near 2 steps: Identify need/problem, and solve problem. Current technology prevents such ideals for many problems, but it is meant to remind you that nearly every process has room for improvement.

“Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” – Arthur C Clarke

6: Over production

Creating excess, and overwhelming later stages. Food is often a good example: buy too many groceries, cook too much food, portion more than you can eat.

7: Defects

Errors or shortcomings that reduce benefits or cause harm. This can be minor, like breaking an egg into the garbage; or serious, getting food poisoning from improper hand washing.

8: Human Potential

What unique skills and abilities are underutilized? Is someone being used as a mere drone?

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