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Why is the 8th waste one of the most important in Lean?

Lean manufacturing - find the 7 wastes
Does your team go looking
for improvement opportunities?

One of the central pillars of the lean movement is the idea of waste in a business. Not the rubbish that we find in bins kind of wastes, but the types of activity that we undertake as part of our jobs that doesn't really benefit the end customer. You probably recall these types of waste from posters in your business, or from courses that you have been on, they are:


  • Defects
  • Overproduction
  • Transportation
  • Waiting
  • Inventory
  • Motions 
  • Processes


The ‘7 wastes’ is a simple way to communicate the idea of removing the waste within a business and it helps you to identify specific areas for improvement. However, as Lean is a people centric approach to business improvement, there is another waste not on the above list. The 8th waste is known as ‘untapped human potential’ and means that the people who work in your business know all kinds of things that could improve the business, but aren't telling you. They will see things differently to you. They will see things that you won’t. You need to take advantage of this.

Getting engagement with any kind of change programme is usually a challenge for most businesses, but one of the simplest ways to do this with Lean is go ‘waste walking’. It’s a bit like playing the childhood game of eye spy, with the list above as the items you are looking for. Taking your team’s observations, adding in a little bit of problem solving, and (hey presto!) you have an improvement plan ready to execute.

The theme of this blog is about improving productivity and on time delivery performance (without the usual hassles), so using the additional brains of your team to help you strip out the unnecessary lead time and complexity from your processes is a great way to make the improvements you seek.

So, if your improvement projects aren't going the way you hope then it might be time to go for a walk with your team!



Giles Johnston
Author, Consultant and Chartered Engineer

P.S. Check out our ‘waste reduction workshop kit’ if you want to run these kinds of events in your own business.