The 8 Forms of Lean Waste, Applied to Business: Motion

business people walking down the hall to work somewhere else

Excess physical and digital motion could be wasting large amounts of time in your office.                                                                            

Carroll Elger|
January 8, 2019

In manufacturing, “lean manufacturing” or simply “lean” has become a dominant management philosophy, deciding much of how the manufacturing component of the supply chain is handled to maximize efficiency of resources. Lean focuses on minimizing waste by identifying activities that add value and separating them from those that don’t, emphasizing the elimination of those that don’t.


Due to lean’s success in the manufacturing industry, managers in other industries began to adapt lean to their work, including business managers. Lean management has become a staple of some contemporary offices, modified to fit the white-collar workplace.


A key tenet of lean is the understanding of the “8 Forms of Waste”. Waste, in this context, is defined by as, “any step or action in a process that is not required to complete a process (called “Non Value-Adding”) successfully.”


Ideawake has found that our clients often set innovation challenges for their stakeholders that involve trying to reduce one or more forms of waste. We believe this is an excellent goal to have when using Ideawake so we’re producing this series of posts covering each individual waste and how Ideawake’s innovation management software could potentially be used to address them. The 8 types of waste are as follows:


  1. Defects
  2. Overproduction
  3. Waiting
  4. Non-utilized Talent
  5. Transportation
  6. Inventory
  7. Motion
  8. Extra-processing



Excess motion as a lean waste in manufacturing refers to excess movement of workers around the manufacturing floor. This form of waste shares many similarities with transportation waste, but instead of wasted movement in carrying a product around the floor, motion waste refers to excess movement of the worker only.

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Like transportation waste, a common cause of motion waste in manufacturing is a poor manufacturing floor layout. When workers frequently have to retrace their steps to complete work, or walk from one end of the floor to another regularly to complete a task, the floor layout is causing motion waste. Workers are wasting their time moving so much, and are experiencing extra physical strain as well, which can add up to worker fatigue even in small doses. Poor communication structure can cause motion waste as well. If a worker frequently has to walk to a supervisor’s office to ask questions or report information instead of using a more immediate form of communication, they could be creating waste. Workers should be at as few stations as possible throughout their workday, and should be switching stations as little as possible as well.


In business, motion waste occurs more often that managers may think. As in manufacturing, a poor office layout can create motion waste. Like when considering transportation waste, an office should be designed so that frequently collaborating employees are not far apart from each other. Workers should be able to access 90% of the resources they need in their office in a direct path on the floor they work on.


Motion waste can also be created in the office in the digital space. Excess “motion” when workers are using their computers can contribute to huge wastes of time during the workday. A poorly-mapped file system, for example, could lead employees to search for necessary documents for minutes at a time, perhaps needing to ask another employee for help, leading to even more waste. Employees need to know where to find files, websites, even programs on their computer with little extra effort.


Ideawake encourages our clients to launch employee engagement challenges for their employees to think of ideas around eliminating motion waste, even if it hasn’t necessarily been identified as an issue yet. Employees are the closest to the underlying causes of motion waste, and can have the best insight into the issue as a result. This can serve as a great “introductory” challenge to your innovation program for employees before introducing more complex or specific business challenges.


If you’d like to see in more depth how we can help you overcome, book a demo of Ideawake here, and we’ll connect you with one of our innovation experts at your earliest convenience


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