A story of waste

Waste is everywhere!

I’m not talking about physical, tangible waste neccesarily although that is relevant. I’m talking about the parts of a process that don’t add value to the customer, that is they don’t change the product in any way. If we get rid of the waste we are left with a process that improves safety, quality, simplicity and speed.

Of course before you can eliminate the waste, you have to see it, there are 8 sources of waste:

  • Over-production
  • Transportation
  • Inventory
  • Defects
  • Over-processing
  • Motion
  • Waiting
  • Wasted human potential


This is where it all starts. Too much of a good thing is a bad thing. I’ve been guilty of this many times. One time I was shopping for some AA batteries, I only needed 4 of them but there was a box of 24 on display that was only a couple of dollars more than a 4-pack, what a bargain!


I used the 4 batteries that I needed, then had to put the remaining 20 somewhere else out of the way. Luckily they were in a little plastic box to keep them together.


I took the box of batteries and put them in a drawer, ready for next time I needed them. They took up a bit of space but I didn’t mind because I had a ready supply of batteries on hand now.


After about 12 months, I needed to use some AA batteries in a remote control so off I went to the drawer to grab two batteries for the job. I was surprised to see that several of the batteries had leaked (lucky they were in a box).


I now had to sort through the batteries, throw out the leaking ones and test the remainder to find some that were good. I had to find my battery tester, test each battery individually and throw out a few more that were flat. I was left with about 14 after this exercise.

Wasted motion

The process of sorting and throwing out leaking batteries, then finding the tester, are examples of wasted motion. Remember anything that doesn’t add value is waste.


It took about 5 minutes to find the battery tester, then a few more to test the remaining batteries. During this entire process the customer, me in this case, was waiting for their product.

Wasted human potential

The whole process of sorting, testing and discarding the defective batteries took me away from the job I should have been doing. Time spent on unneccesary tasks is probably the worst kind of waste.