How To Eliminate Waste in Manufacturing

Businesses cannot underestimate the importance of delivering value on every front. If you want to improve every aspect of the manufacturing process, lean manufacturing methods should be a key part of what makes your business flow smoothly.

When it comes to removing waste, lean manufacturing is a method that attempts to identify and eliminate inefficient steps that are a burden to your production, costs, and schedules.

Why is Eliminating Waste Important?

Eliminating waste in manufacturing provides many benefits:

Reduces Energy Consumption

Increased energy consumption will grow your overhead costs, drive up your energy costs, and ultimately, it is bad for the environment. Every type of waste will cost you more in energy, therefore eliminating even the smallest amount can have the most significant benefits.

It Benefits Business

When you are wasteful, the selling price of your product has to be above average, meaning you end up producing less than you could for a much lower price. By becoming more competitive in the market by reducing waste, you are reducing inflation down to a competitive selling point, which doesn’t just make you a more competitive organization, but it improves the business in other ways. For example, reducing unnecessary movement on the factory floor is one simple method that, over time, makes more jobs more stable, resulting in greater productivity and satisfaction.

Reduces the Impact on the Environment

Being wasteful usually results in creating actual waste, which, without proper management, contributes to a larger carbon footprint. Businesses must be more cognisant of their impacts on the environment by eliminating waste.

Engineer researching how to eliminate waste in manufacturing

What is Lean Manufacturing?

Lean manufacturing is a very simple core process that will eliminate anything and everything that does not add value from the customer’s perspective. Lean manufacturing comprises a number of principles, techniques, and tools that can drive waste out of the manufacturing process, and covers five key principles:

Identify and Define Value

This relates to the services or products you provide for customers. Value is defined from their perspective, not yours. Therefore, understanding what your customers want, what they are willing to pay for, and what they perceive as valuable is critical.

Map the Value Stream

This comprises identifying the activities within each step of a process that reinforces value against the activities and steps that do not, also known as value stream mapping. Differentiating between what is valuable and what is wasteful opens your eyes to a number of possibilities.

Create a Smooth Flow

After understanding each of the activities within your process, you can create a smoother-flowing operation free of delays and bottlenecks. This could be as simple as organizing the layout of your factory line to ensure continuous flow, for example, reducing changeover times in such a way that you can be more responsive to customers.

Pull Based on Customer Demand

Pulling production makes it easier to reduce the finished inventory and schedule a manufacturing process according to customer demand. One approach that can help you would be to build a productive and positive relationship with suppliers so they can provide more support where possible.

Strive for Perfection

The final part of the Five Lean Principles involves understanding that improvement must be an ongoing practice. Every organization should have an overriding goal of creating a culture of continuous improvement, which we can only achieve if we keep striving for perfection, rather than remaining stagnant. Through quality management, using business processes more efficiently, and utilizing resources more effectively, we can aim for perfection one step at a time.

Methods to eliminate waste undergone by production supervisor on factory floor

What Are the “Seven Wastes of Lean?”

As the five principles provide a solid framework, the “Seven Wastes of Lean” allow companies to understand where they are specifically going wrong. In lean production, derived from the Toyota Production System (TPS), there are many different tools for reducing waste. In addition to value stream mapping, there are tools like the Kanban and the 5S system. In TPS, waste is categorized into seven areas, with specific recommendations on how to reduce them:


Transportation is defined as the movement of materials or products from one location to another. Transportation waste is usually caused by:

  • Complex processes.
  • Excessive storage or production locations.
  • Inefficient production lines.
  • Large batch sizes.

The longer the product moves, the less value it brings to the inventory.


The inventory covers every piece of the puzzle, from raw materials to the finished products. An excessive inventory does not generate income, does not utilize space, and creates unnecessary work, for example, endless form-filling. Excessive inventory is caused by some of the following:

  • Defects in the inventory.
  • Overproduction.
  • Overspending on the inputs.

To minimize these, you should only purchase what you need and what is required in relation to the market demand.


This covers every movement that is not done as simply as possible. Similar to transportation, which focused on products, motion covers operators and equipment. Examples of motion waste include:

  • Walking to deliver paperwork.
  • Lifting heavy items.
  • Non-economic layouts.

A productive workspace will greatly reduce motion, which you can achieve by following the 5S system of organizing a workplace.


Also known as queueing, waiting time encompasses dealing with production interactions, for example, during a shift change or waiting for the next step. These are usually caused by:

The goal is to connect each process to minimize each part of the waiting process.

Over Processing

Over processing involves putting more investment into a product than the customer actually values. Over processing can be caused by:

  • Using outdated methods.
  • Unnecessary steps in production.
  • Slow approvals.

Over processing can be seen as a way to achieve perfection in an efficient manner. For example, painting the inside of a product the customer will never see.


This type of waste is generally viewed as the worst of them all, as producing more than is necessary or doing too much too soon results in excess inventory and provides very little value to the business. Speeding up the manufacturing process for the purposes of overproduction may seem like a good idea, but this “hedging your bets” approach is rarely useful. Overproduction can be caused by:

  • Poor or lack of automation.
  • Widely varying production schedules.
  • Not forecasting or poorly forecasting market demand.

Rather than thinking you need to make more, “just in case,” you need to operate with a greater forecast for market demand and be slightly ahead of the curve to ensure that you hit deadlines just in time.


A defect in a product is wasteful because it requires repair or replacement, wasting resources and materials, while also adding time by creating additional processes, resulting in customer loss. It’s better to prevent defects as they are normally caused by:

  • Inadequate quality control.
  • Human error.
  • Poor communication.
  • Poor standardization.

Industrial factory employee working to eliminate waste

What Are the Best Lean Waste Reduction Strategies?

If you look at reducing or removing waste with the Five Lean Principles and the “7 Wastes of Lean,” you will have a comprehensive strategy to deal with whatever comes at you. But if you are looking to arm yourself with further knowledge, eliminating any form of waste involves five methods:

  1. Making waste visible, which helps you become more aware of the volume of waste.
  2. Recognize it, by being more conscious of the waste you are creating.
  3. Being accountable, by defining who in the organization is responsible for the waste.
  4. Measure the waste, by defining the size and its impact.
  5. Reducing or removing waste, which you can achieve by the following actions:
  • Stopping it, by ceasing it immediately.
  • Reducing it, either by streamlining manufacturing methods or another practice such as automation.
  • Merging it with another activity, for example, if you are stuck in the Waiting part, you can merge it with another activity to potentially double productivity.
  • Delegate it, either by outsourcing it or addressing the fundamental issues underpinning it.

How Should Businesses Incorporate Lean Waste Reduction Into Their Management Strategies?

The “Seven Wastes of Lean” and the Five Lean Principles will arm you with a comprehensive strategy to implement lean manufacturing processes, but it’s also critical to view it from a business perspective and look at lean management strategies, including some of the following methods:

Measure the Results

Measuring results provides you with real-time feedback so you can understand the impact of any process that either contributes to inventory waste or if you have made significant progress in reducing your waste.

Document Standardized Work

Making sure employees adhere to appropriate standards and share a proper template ensures widespread communication.

Identify Opportunities for Improvement

We must look at where we can continuously benefit, which goes back to the notion of aiming for perfection.

Increase Cross-Functionality

Minimizing breakdowns in equipment contributing to idle production time will not just streamline operations, but will improve problem-solving among businesses.

Improving Motivation

If you want to maximize the human potential within your organization, recognizing and rewarding employees who have engaged in waste reduction will help them stay positive, motivated, and will encourage others.

Eliminating waste in your manufacturing methods may sound complex, but if you stick to the Five Lean Principles and the “Seven Wastes of Lean” as a framework, you are arming yourself with a solid foundation to thrive.