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

Four person business team walking through a brightly lit hallway

Even in the digital era, physical movement can create waste in the office or manufacturing floor.                                                                    

Carroll Elger|
December 13, 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 manufacturing, transportation waste refers to taking a product and moving it elsewhere, whether that be for further development, review, or other functions. Transportation waste itself only refers to the resources used in the physical act of moving the product. This waste is created by the extra time used in moving the product, or the improper assignment of labor to moving tasks.


Manufacturing processes that aren’t maximized for efficiency will most often create transportation waste. This is particularly concerning, as a process that creates waste will ensure that this waste occurs each time the process does. Manufacturing process should be designed so products move in as linear a path as possible, in accordance with what the manufacturing floor space allows. When a product’s path overlaps, or workers are frequently moving across large areas of the floor and back, transportation waste is likely occurring. Transportation waste can also occur as a result of improper employee training. Employees with incomplete knowledge of all process in their unit can waste resources by moving products to the wrong area or at the wrong time.


Now that we’re fully invested in a paperless, digital age, transportation waste has declined in importance of the wastes to address in a traditional business setting. Employees have less reason to move around the office space than ever, but transportation waste can still occur. The biggest culprit of transportation waste in an office is in the office design itself, much like in manufacturing. Employees should have easy access to common areas like the bathrooms and kitchen, avoiding siloing off certain departments or teams resulting in some employees suffering more waste than others. As face-to-face collaboration among employees is being revisited in the digital era, it should be considered with transportation waste in mind. Departments or teams that engage in frequent collaboration should be placed as close together in the office space as possible.


It is also possible to view non-physical interactions as an adaptation of lean’s classification of transportation waste for the digital era. Checking email is one of the most time-consuming tasks in an office worker’s day. Regularly sending emails to individuals who don’t need the contents, or failing to establish exactly who needs the information in an email and creating a long email chain could be considered modern forms of transportation waste. This type of activity could be contributing to waiting waste, as covered in a previous post.

Employees themselves have by far the most insight into how much transportation waste occurs in the office they work in. For this reason, an open-innovation idea management platform like Ideawake is ideal for finding solutions to transportation waste from those closest to the issue, your most valuable resource, employees. Employees are highly aware of their own excessive movement, but often feel as though they don’t have enough influence for change. A crowdsourcing innovation platform like Ideawake allows for other employees to upvote and offer constructive feedback on the ideas for change single employees might have. This type of empowerment of one idea means that their voice is heard, and collaboration around the idea means that a potential solution to transportation waste can be developed to the point of implementation. If you’re interested in learning more about how Ideawake is able to drive corporate innovation that reduces waste, click here to book a demo today.

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