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Waste? Garbage? What's it got to do with Lean Office?

Waste is a great starting point and a fundamental concept in Lean Office, to assist in making immediate cost savings and removing unnecessary tasks for employees.

If you understand your current processes, it provides an amazing opportunity to bring teams large or small together to discuss each step in turn, and to identify one or more of the eight wastes.

An action plan subsequently identifies how to eliminate the waste and assigns responsibility to one or more people to make it happen.

It's also an effective team building opportunity, by allowing experienced employees to talk in depth about their working role... an area which is often overlooked by managers. Thoughts and ideas for improvement often go unheard as a result.

Here are the eight wastes (DOWNTIME) and some examples of where you can find them in an Office environment:

  1. D Defects

  2. O Overproduction

  3. W Waiting

  4. N non utilised talent

  5. T Transportation

  6. I Inventory

  7. M Motion

  8. E Extra processing


  • Work that contains errors

  • Work that is lacking information and results in rework and delay

  • Additional unnecessary work performed on a process caused by unclear processes

  • Too much sorting

  • Too much repetition


  • Providing a service or information before the customer actually needs or wants it


  • Waiting for people

  • Waiting for paper

  • Waiting for machines to output

  • Waiting for information

  • Waiting for responses

  • Waiting for approvals

  • Waiting for signatures

  • Waiting for supplies

  • Waiting for meeting room availability

  • Waiting for the next step in the process

  • Waiting for attendees late for meetings


  • Not using an employee's mental and creative skills

  • Not using employees experience and knowledge


  • Moving information from place to place

  • Poor office layout

  • Carrying documents from one office to another

  • Too much movement to a printer or copier machine


  • Having more information that the process needs e.g. extra report fields

  • Too much stationary

  • Too many files

  • Too many email attachments

  • Unnecessary movement of people or parts between processes

  • Too many copies of documents printed

  • A work unit sitting on someone's desk


  • Too much searching for information

  • Too many mouse clicks to perform one task


  • Creating more than the customer wants

  • Over checking

  • Too many reviews

  • Copying too many people on emails

  • Replying to All on emails

  • More work or higher quality than is required by the customer


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