From Waiting to Defects: The 8 Wastes of Lean Construction

8 Wastes of Lean

An Introduction to Waste

The goal of any design and construction project is ultimately to generate the most value for the customer or stakeholder. The goal of Lean is to generate that value as efficiently and as safely as possible by following the six tenets of the Lean Construction Institute, which include:

For our purposes, we’re going to focus on eliminating waste.

What Are the 8 Wastes?

The Lean Construction Institute has identified eight different kinds of waste that occur during projects:

Over/Under Production, Waiting, Unnecessary Transportation, Over/Under Processing, Excess Inventory, Unnecessary Motion, Defects, and Unused Creativity of Team Members.

Overview: 8 Types of Waste

In the world of Lean, waste is defined as anything that doesn’t directly create value; waste can be thought of as the antithesis to value. Waste occurs during both the design and construction phases of a project. It is just as important to reduce waste in the design phase as it is during the construction phase. Let’s explore the eight different types of waste you might encounter during your projects.

1. Over/Under Production

Over and under production can be defined as making something before it is truly needed. In other words: not producing the right work at the right time in the right amount as needed by the downstream work.

Perhaps you received more materials than you asked for, received them before or after you requested them, or both. This would go against the Lean virtues of pull planning (obtaining materials only as you need them and only taking as much as you need for production).

This leads to inventory waste because you are either not receiving materials you need and are then forced to wait (in the case of underproduction) or you receive too many materials that you now have no use for (overproduction). These can both lead to expanded costs during your project and wasted time.

For more on Over/Under Production Waste explore the Field Crew Huddle Youtube Channel.

2. Waiting

The waste of waiting occurs when work-in-progress or people are waiting on the next step in production. Waiting is an extremely common type of waste that can occur in many different ways across design and construction projects.

If there’s an issue in the project that is preventing you from progressing but you’ve decided to wait until the weekly team meeting the next day to address it, that’s a type of waste. If a worker is waiting to use a piece of equipment that they cannot complete their task without, that’s a type of waste.

Daily huddles are an excellent tool for eliminating waiting waste, since they allow people the daily opportunity to address issues with the team. More efficient processes can eliminate waiting waste. It’s important to practice identifying waste causes in the production process.

3. Unnecessary Transportation

Unnecessary transportation waste includes creating inefficient transport, moving raw materials, parts, equipment, or information into or out of storage or between processes. Unnecessary transportation occurs when pull planning is poor or when there isn’t a plan for the storage of materials for safekeeping until they are needed.

Proper pull planning in a Lean manufacturing process eliminates unnecessary transportation waste since materials, equipment, and the like are only moved as they are needed for the next stage of the process.

Poor logistics in material transportation can even lead to another type of waste – defects – as materials that are moved constantly are at greater risk of being damaged.

4. Over/Under Processing

Over processing is the act of taking unnecessary steps in a process. Naturally, under processing would be neglecting to take necessary steps in a process. This was one of the most prominent types of waste that Toyota eliminated when it created the Toyota Production System, slimming down the manufacturing process to include only the necessary steps – or the steps that directly produced value.

One of the most common examples of over processing takes place during traditional Request for Information (RFI) processes, in which information is passed through several people before a question finally gets answered.

5. Excess Inventory

Excess inventory waste occurs when product, materials, work-in-progress or information quantities go beyond supporting the immediate need. Anything that is a buffer could be explored as waste. This is because most buffer is never used. The inclusion of buffer in itself goes against the notion of pull planning since it represents materials provided that were never requested.

In general, excess inventory can lead to unnecessary transportation as workers are forced to find space for materials that are not yet needed. It can also lead to unnecessary motion if workers are taking time to sift through all of the inventory to find the materials they need at the moment.

6. Unnecessary Motion

Unnecessary or excessive motion can be described as unnecessary movement by people or movement that does not add value. As mentioned above, unnecessary motion also occurs if workers are spending time searching for materials or information. Unnecessary transportation can also be a type of unnecessary motion.

More specifically, unnecessary motion often occurs on job sites when workers are constantly shuttling back and forth across the room to grab materials situated away from their work station. Unnecessary motion can also happen if excess inventory is serving as a physical roadblock in a room and a worker needs to take time to move around it.

7. Defects

Defects occur when there is a production of defective parts, work or information that causes the work to be scrapped or redone. This leads to rework, one of the biggest causes of waste and a practice that commonly leads to projects being delivered late and over-budget.

If a designer receives new information that requires them to start their design over from scratch, that’s a defect. If a worker on the construction site puts up drywall incorrectly and needs to redo the entire section, that’s a defect. Miscommunication can also lead to defects if a team realizes they didn’t properly convey the strategy to those who were tasked with executing the job.

8. Unused Creativity of Team Members

Unused creativity of team members occurs when a team loses time, ideas, skills, improvements and learning opportunities by not engaging or listening to employees. Collaboration is a huge facet to adopting Lean, and Respect for People is the most important tenet of the Lean Construction Institute around which the other five revolve. If input isn’t respected through poorly utilized talent, creative solutions to complex problems are unable to present themselves.

Get Lean Topics at Your Jobsite

You can enhance your job site with a Lean Construction Institute poster! These helpful visuals explain and guide your team through important Lean concepts. The posters are printer ready and can be scaled to your desired dimensions. Print downloads are available as a member benefit to LCI Corporate Members, otherwise are available for purchase.

Jobsite Posters

Waste Walk

Conducting a waste walk – or gemba walk – is an effective way to discover waste happening in production processes. During a gemba walk, one sees the process occurring in real time. Gemba walks also include asking questions of those in charge of executing those processes to find out where the value is being added and where it isn’t.

Learn More About 8 Wastes

The Lean Construction Institute is committed to transforming the design and construction industry by providing Lean educational resources, conducting field research, and facilitating local and national Lean events. Explore supplementary resources below to further your understanding of the 8 wastes and how to mitigate them.


Downloads & Videos
field crew huddle youtube channel cover image
Field Crew Huddle Youtube Channel
Explore Field Crew Huddle Youtube videos to gain a deeper understanding of waste in Lean. Already familiar with Lean? We want to feature you! Learn more.
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waste in lean presentation cover photo
8 Wastes Presentation
Explore the 8 wastes of Lean with LCI's Greater Des Moines Community of Practice in this comprehensive presentation.
Watch on Youtube
preview of the 8 wastes graphic
8 Wastes Graphic
Explore the Field Crew Huddle website to see the 8 wastes graphic with videos, case studies and more important information to further your Lean journey.
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8 wastes of lean chapter pdf preview
8 Wastes of Lean Chapter
Waste is disrespectful to people. All 8 wastes interfere with the environment that an individual works in. Waste consumes resources and skill. Download this free resource to read more.
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learning to see 8 wastes pdf preview
Learning to See Waste
Waste consumes resources and workers’ skills therefore it is the enemy of good construction. Learn more by downloading this free resource made possible by LCI Corporate Members.
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8 waste case study pdf preview
A Case Study of Waste: Identification of Potential Waste in Industrial Housing
Download and read this 2012 case study on waste in the industrial housing sector.
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Trade Partners Handbook of Production Improvement Methods
This handbook was developed as a resource. The content is intended as a user guide with practical resources, lessons learned by others, examples, and guidance to allow trade contractors and specialty construction firms operating to adopt lean principles and reap the workforce and business benefits that follow more readily.
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eLearning Courses
Introduction to Lean Project Delivery
Gain insight to Lean Project Delivery (LPD) by understanding how the Lean System connects People, Principles, and Practices to optimize results by shifting both mindset and behaviors. The key achievable goal of this course is to prepare and enable team members with a foundational understanding of Lean approaches for daily use within a project environment.
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Introduction to the Last Planner System®
This course will allow you to gain in-depth insight to the practical application of the Last Planner® System (LPS) through multimedia, hands-on interactions, diagrams, worksheets, and more. The key achievable goal of this course is to learn how to engage at all five levels of LPS effectively on a day-to-day basis with a team implementing the system.
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Effective Big Room
Gain a foundational understanding of the concept of a Big Room by learning the benefits, purpose, and implementation considerations. Understanding how to improve collaboration and drive transparency within your team. Identifying venue types, set up, and activities that work best for your projects. Learning how to effectively advance work and learning to support the success of future projects.
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Lean In The Design Phase
Gain insight to Lean approaches and tools relative to the design phase of project delivery to optimize team communication, collaboration and results. Understand how a Lean strategy can drive innovative solutions by connecting People, Principles and Practices. The key achievable goal of this course is to prepare and enable team members with a foundational understanding of Lean approaches for daily use within the design phase of a project.
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Last Planner System® In Design
Gain a foundational understanding of implementing Last Planner System® (LPS®) during the design (pre-construction) phases of a project. Identify the essential foundational principles of the five conversations of LPS, gain practical application insight for each, and access key action guidelines.
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Target Value Delivery
Gain an understanding of Target Value Delivery (TVD) by identifying the different phases and components that make up the delivery approach. Discover how the Lean components interact together to improve the process and outcome of the project.
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LCI Publications
Transforming Design and Construction: A Framework for Change

William R. (Bill) Seed, Executive Editor

A diverse set of practitioners collaborated to create the Transforming Design and Construction: A Framework for Change book based on the transformative projects and experiences of their Lean practices. The papers, presented in short chapter format, are intended to encourage discussion, learning and experimentation individually or with a team. Read the first and most popular book in LCI’s Transforming Design and Construction series to gain a high-level understanding of various Lean principles, strategies and methods.
Target Value Delivery: Practitioner Guidebook to Implementation

Executive Editors: Kristin Hill, Katherine Copeland and Christian Pikel

Target Value Delivery: Practitioner Guidebook to Implementation was collaboratively written by a team of more than 20 Target Value Delivery (TVD) practitioners to provide current state practical guidance to implementing TVD with a project team. This guidebook portrays TVD as an umbrella over Target Value Production for construction and Target Value Design by taking a broader approach rather than focusing only on the design phase. Read LCI’s second book in the Transforming Design and Construction series to gain practical insight to current practices for implementing Target Value Delivery on any project.