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Lean Manufacturing, What is Waste?

Lean is a term used to describe an efficient and effective process.  The goal in operating a lean manufacturing facility is simple: To have as little waste as possible throughout the life cycle of product development and distribution. What is that waste? Simply put, it is any activity that does not provide value to the product being manufactured.

Over the next few weeks we will talk about different types of waste in a manufacturing facility and how a 3PL can help reduce and eliminate it. Toyota Manufacturing was a pioneer in lean manufacturing and originally outlined seven areas of waste. They are:


Transporting materials and product is necessary, but can be one of the most costly forms of waste within your facility. How efficiently are raw materials moved into your facility? What is the most effective way to distribute finished goods to customers? Finding ways to cut down on transportation costs is a must for any lean manufacturer.  


An interesting component to lean manufacturing is inventory levels. When inventory levels are too high, valuable space is taken up at the manufacturing facility leading to extra transportation and product move costs. When inventory levels are too low, production is at risk. Put simply, maintaining a healthy balance is crucial for lean manufacturers to operate at peak efficiency.  


From the motion of machines producing goods to the people operating them, manufacturing facilities are always moving. Ensuring that each step, stroke or revolution is as efficient as possible is a factor in becoming lean. How proficient are people moving from task to task? What about machines, are they operating at peak efficiency?  


This seems like a simple idea, but it can have a big impact on workflow and efficiency in a manufacturing environment. Waiting on people, products or paperwork disrupts workflow throughout the entire facility. Are there times when waiting is going to be inevitable? Yes, but finding ways to create effective processes and procedures can greatly cut down on costs.  


When processes aren’t efficient, productivity suffers throughout the entire product cycle. Creating and utilizing an effective process for ordering techniques, product prep, distribution or anything within the product life cycle can cut down on a lot of headaches.  


Producing too much of a certain product can be detrimental to a plant. Overproduction usually stems from an large batch sizes, errors in demand planning or changes in the market. From finding storage options for the inventory to added transportation costs, overproduction can be a costly mistake  


Quality errors create waste in many different ways for any company, especially a manufacturer. From the added transportation costs in product return to the actual rework or replacement to fix the problem it’s obvious to see how defects can be hard on a manufacturing plant. How do you tackle recalls and returns?

Staying true to your core competencies goes a long way to becoming more efficient, and finding ways to outsource or delegate tasks can be an effective tool. Follow our blog to learn how a 3PL can help reduce and eliminate areas of waste for you!

Have a wonderful day!