wasteThe Seven Forms of Waste refers to any activity within a process that does not add value to a product or service from the perspective of customer’s requirements. In other words, it is the use of materials or resources in a greater amount than what the customer needs and is willing to pay for.

Taichi Ohno, an executive from Toyota, was the first one to describe the 7 forms of waste that occur in every process and in every organization, no matter how effective or efficient it may appear to be. These are described as:


  1. Waiting
    This refers to the time spent between activities waiting for the next step in production or for an upstream process to deliver. During this time no value is added.
  2. Over Production
    Overproduction occurs when products are produced sooner, faster or in a greater amount than what customers demand. This overproduction will result in the manufacture of products that are not needed and in an excess inventory. 
  3. Inventory
    This refers to any raw material, work in progress (WIP) or finished goods that are not necessary to support the immediate need. This excess of Inventory requires additional handling and space. 
  4. Motion
    This refers to the movement of workers within each activity that adds no value to the product or service. This motion can be a result of employees having to accommodate inefficient process layout, defects, reprocessing, overproduction or excess inventory, and individuals having to move more than necessary for the process to be completed.
  5. Transportation
    This is unnecessary movement of raw materials, work-in-process (WIP) or finished goods between activities. This transportation results in time added to the process during which no value-added activity is being performed and it may also increase the probability of damage during handling.
  6. Over-Processing
    It refers to processing more than what is needed to produce what the customer requires. This results in extra operations such as rework, re-processing and handling or storage that occur because of defects, overproduction or excess inventory.
  7. Defects.
    These are components of products or services that do not conform to the customer’s expectations. Defects result in a reduce or discouragement of customer satisfaction and even in a loss of customers.

Any organization,  regardless of its nature, can identify some or all of these types of waste in their processes. Organizations that identify and eliminate these 7 forms of waste can benefit from:

  • Reduce cycle time.
  • Improve process flow.
  • Increase customer satisfaction.
  • Decrease operational costs.
  • Improve work environment.
  • Increase employee morale.
  • Increase profitability.

As mentioned above, every process will always have some level of waste. Its continuous identification and removal is what continuous improvement is all about and only by striving to eliminate it will an organization be able to achieve operational excellence.