The 7 Sins of Lean


Image by La Tête Krançien via Flickr

Many Lean practitioners agree that Lean Manufacturing (and services) is much more than a set of tools.  Lean is a way of thinking that can and should result in a culture change.  Lean is a quest to find and eliminate all waste and a transformation to a Zero-Loss mentality.  Manufacturing has always been plagued by waste. While my personal experience has been in manufacturing, parts of the Service Industry have been going Lean as well.  I’ve seen a lot of discussion about Lean Health Care in particular.  Harley Davidson even has a Lean product development process discussed in The Lean Machine.  Lean defines waste as any activity that does not add value to the customer.  This waste has been grouped as seven sins or in lean terms seven deadly wastes:

  1. Wasted Motion: Any human effort that does not add value is waste.
  2. Wasted Time (Waiting): Any time where people or processes are waiting is waste.
  3. Transportation: Any movement of product that is not adding value is waste. Ron Wince at Six Sigma IQ uses a more general definition which would apply to services as well: movement, either physically or electronically, of a customer transaction which consumes resources and costs, but is not required to satisfy the customer.
  4. Inventory: Work in Process (WIP), raw materials, packaging supplies, and even finished product held in inventory is waste.  Queues of transactions and record keeping would be work in process and waste.  Clearly manufacturing sites require some inventory but by definition it is waste if the customer is not paying for it.  Inventory can also lead to other wastes including defects (damaged or out-of-date) and wasted motion (movement of inventory).  As with other forms of waste, Lean sites will strive to reduce inventories.
  5. Defects: Any product or service not completed to the customer’s delight on the first try is waste.  This would include yield-losses, product re-worked on the production line, Quality holds, and at least some consumer complaints.
  6. Over Processing: Any process inefficiency or process steps that do not add value to the customer.
  7. Over Production: Producing more product than needed or earlier than necessary is waste.

Many manufacturers have more opportunity to get Lean than they realize.  For example, an ideal state is to load finished product on the truck directly from the production line meeting the specifications of a customer order.  This would greatly reduce or eliminate over production and finished product inventory waste.

Let me challenge you to look at your manufacturing and services in a new light.  Look at your processes through a Lean lens.  How can you and your team reduce waiting and human movement in your processes?  How can you reduce the movement of your products?  How can you eliminate process steps?  How can you make your product more real-time?  How can you eliminate defects?  Once you start the quest, keep going because the vision is to develop a zero loss mentality and to eliminate all waste.

Best regards,
Christian Paulsen
Lean Leadership Blog
Written for

Please leave a comment below if you liked this article. You can also connect on LinkedIn, follow me on Twitter, subscribe via e-mail (right side bar), retweet, digg, or stumble this article. Your feedback is appreciated.


About Christian Paulsen

Christian Paulsen is an Executive Consultant with 20 years of Lean Manufacturing. Chris adds value to organizations by driving process improvement and bottom line savings. Chris intends to help others by sharing the lessons learned after a quarter century of operational leadership, marriage, parenting, and even longer as a Cubs fan. Your comments on this blog are welcome. You can also connect with Chris via LinnkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook in the right sidebar. Chris welcomes your comments. Christian's professional services are available by contacting him through LinkedIn (right side bar)
This entry was posted in Lean Manufacturing and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to The 7 Sins of Lean

  1. Isaac Duke says:

    Haven’t checked your blog for a while – catching up on your posts. This one is particulary simple, clear, and helpful. One of the things I am learning about blogging that you do well is keep reiterating good posts. People following your blog aren’t necessarily looking at every post you make, so when you re-post similar themes / ideas, it helps re-inforce why people visited your blog in the first place…

    Thank you for the great insights!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s