Muda – Waste

Lego Hundred Dollar Bill

Lego Hundred Dollar Bill

For those familiar with the lean approach to the work or the Toyota Way, you my already know about the concept of Muda. Muda is one of the three categories associated with lean that impact performance and costs to the organization.  Muda is regarded to have seven waste types or areas or actions that cause waste.

Over Production

Just like it sounds, making more of something than the need for that something.  This does not just mean parts, but also extends to work product deliveries throughout the work pipeline. Think SIPOC (Supplier-Input-Process-Output-Customer), in this case any output from a process (P) delivered before the depending process (C) or work can start, leaving the work product just sitting there.  Another variant of this waste would be working on products that are not for the next work process, but some prioritized work that is further down or upstream.  When this is not coordinated well, we end up with rework, and if changes are required because of something learned between these two events, we will have rework – waste in depending work as we did not account for this change.

Additionally, when we double up work items that are usually depending, without coordination, for example manufacturing aspect of the product development before the product or system design becomes firm, as in stable with reduced uncertainty.  This uncoordinated work, besides being an over production waste, will often result in rework which we will discuss later.  By doing this work before it is needed, we have taken the focus off of what is needed.  Organizations with limited volume of talent, can ill afford to spend time and effort on work that has no consequence on the here and now, and where changes between these two events may cause rework.

We see this waste in or project management activities when we attempt to make detailed plans months or even years into the future.  We are essentially spending time to plan what we do not know.  Over production of schedule, or any of the other project plans that have components that are unknown, but we behave as if we in fact do know, is a waste.  Knowledge and identification of past events and process statistics can be used to estimate with little detailed effort. The project may request excessive reports from those doing the work resulting in over production of status reports.

RPTechniques (Duplicate)


Waiting is just what it sounds like, waiting for equipment, information and decisions cost time.  Operators waiting while machines process inputs and produce the output. This reminds me of the old phrase from my fast food days, you got time to lean, you got time to clean.  When people are unable to work on what should be worked, but cannot because some prerequisite has not been delivered or met, this is also waste.

Waiting for documentation sign-offs, approvals or decisions are waste.  Material and prototype ordering logistics can also cause waiting and waste. For projects and project management, conflicts that are not resolved, or projects with no escalations plan may find themselves stalled, unable to progress while the clock keeps ticking off time.  Even when decisions are made, if the decision is not quickly propagated through to the necessary personnel we can have idle or wait times.  Project gate reviews can also be a wait that results in waste.


Excessive movement of material or information as well as excessive transfer of the work of developing the product between the functional departments – hand-offs.  Long pipelines of project status feedback results in considerable handling of the information is likewise an example of excess conveyance.  When I was a supervisor at a fast food restaurant, I watched the breakfast guy work to stuff the biscuits at the crescor station on the backing pan, then move the sheet of stuffed biscuits to another station, to then wrap the product and put it into the hot box for the cashiers to deliver to the customers. One of the first things I did, was to relocate the crescore closer to the cabinet (this required rewiring the cabinet with a different plug to access the local outlet) which both eliminated the conveyance and also moved from batch delivery to incremental delivery.  It was possible to stuff and wrap in one location.

Biscuit station

Biscuit station



There is waste in over processing or unnecessary processing.  There is waste in a process that results in too large of variation, little standardization or little use of the existing standards.  Likewise it is waste to have a process that produces results of much smaller variation than needed or required (over processing).   Reinventing solutions or portions of solutions rather than appropriate design reuse with adaptation likewise constitutes over processing.  Stop and go tasks between processes is another waste that comes from processing.


Batching systems build up parts or information.  Not using this information or parts is a form of inventory waste.  Ordering prototype parts that are not used or sit around for periods before these are used, represent waste.  One of the reasons for the high level of inventory is variation in part arrival, and this is especially true for prototype parts that are ordered with no plan for their for the sole reason that we may need these parts and the prototype lead times are too long. It is better to find ways to reduce the prototype lead times.


In manufacturing, motion that causes strain or that is unnecessary will be regarded as waste.  Project team members spending time moving from meeting to meeting or in excessive meetings likewise represents waste.  This is especially true when it comes to meeting with no agenda or action item list or when the meeting is poorly conducted in general.


Another form of waste is that of defects. Defects are not limited to the product, but also associated with the artifacts that are produced along the way that will result in the product. For example, defective specifications will likely end up in the product lest we take some action to discover and eliminate that defect. The same is true for project documentation, contracts, testing documentation and many others.  These defects left undetected will result in rework or waste in material form.




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