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

Wasting resources with too much communication

Overproduction is more common in a traditional business setting than commonly acknowledged.                                                                          

Carroll Elger|
November 26, 2018

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



In lean, overproduction refers to producing too much of a product or service and/or producing it before it is needed. Overproduction causes waste up-front by over-utilizing resources before the product is even procured by the customer.


Overproduction in manufacturing most often leads to wastes of resources and time. Any amount of time or resources used to produce a product beyond the customer’s requirements is considered waste. Different problems can arise for the manufacturer depending on how the overproduction is handled. If the cost is passed on to the customer, the customer will be dissatisfied that they must pay more than anticipated for the product. Even if the cost is not passed on, the customer relationship could be damaged as the customer cannot be sure if they will receive the exact product they requested in the future. The potential to both waste resources and damage customer relationships makes overproduction a serious form of waste to be cognizant of.


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In a business setting, we can consider each piece of work that an employee works on as their “product”. As such, there is a surprising number of instances when overproduction waste can occur in the office. On a daily basis, an activity like making physical copies of work that could be delivered electronically would be a direct waste of paper resources caused by “overproducing” the copies. In the long-term, overproduction could arise from projects not having the scope of work properly defined. Conducting too much primary research, producing unneeded reports, and more could create overproduction waste in business.


Read More: The 8 Forms of  Lean Waste: Defects


Crowdsourcing employees to find solutions to overproduction in the office is a natural solution because of the range of instances overproduction can occur. Employees themselves have the best insight into daily work, so collecting their ideas on how to reduce overproduction using an innovation management platform or idea management software can bring quick results. Overproduction in bigger projects is most often reduced through improving the processes required of project managers, so a challenge geared towards these individuals on Ideawake’s platform would give them an opportunity to collaborate on their shared processes.

If you feel your company could improve its resource efficiency by reducing overproduction, 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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