Confused about Waste

By Ron Updated on May 15th, 2017

A while back I wrote about how I felt waiting was the worst of the 7 wastes. OK, so being trapped on an airplane may have influenced that post a bit but I bring it up since I outlined the 7 (or 8 depending on whose book you read) deadly wastes.

I often find that many people are confused about the difference between the waste of “transportation” and the waste of “motion.”

There may be formal definitions available… but I am too lazy to look them up now so I will give you the Ron Pereira version.

When we speak about transportation we are talking about the movement of material or goods. For example, picking up a pallet full of material and hauling it across the factory to be processed could be been as transportation waste.

When we speak about motion we are talking about the unnecessary movement of people. For example, walking an extra 10 steps from one workstation to the next (when they could be moved closer together) will eventually add up to miles of wasted motion. Also, reaching and stretching for parts on the workbench when the material could be placed at point of use could also be seen as wasted motion.

If anyone else has more examples please do share. Until next time, I wish you all the best on your journey towards continuous improvement.

  1. Matt

    March 14, 2007 - 3:02 am

    In my past, I’ve actually had disagreements with coworkers over categorizing a waste as either motion or transport. In the middle of one argument, it hit me: who cares what category any waste is? The important thing is to recognize that something IS WASTE, and then get rid of it. That was a key experience for me.

  2. Anonymous

    March 14, 2007 - 4:38 pm

    Yes, waste is waste. I agree on your distinction between motion and transportation. The key is eliminating waste. I had been taught that overproduction is the worst form of waste, because it leads to all of the other types of waste.

  3. Ron Pereira

    March 14, 2007 - 6:19 pm

    Hi Anonymous, I would agree that overproduction is the worst of all wastes in manufacturing environments. But when dealing with service organizations (airlines, etc.) I would have to say waiting is a close second if not more damaging.

  4. Jon Miller

    March 15, 2007 - 2:59 pm

    It’s important to understand the difference between the wastes clearly from the practical standpoint of knowing how to get rid of them and how to capture the benefits of improvement.

    For example motion is typically “arms & torso” movement while adding value to something, which leads directly to labor productivity, safety and quality improvement opportunities related to wrong / missing / loose parts.

    Transportation is typically “legs” movement of things over longer distances, and not adding value in the process of moving them. There can be productivity improvement if transportation is cut out totally, but typically transportation is an indirect labor activity or something that happens every so many cycle (move full box to shipping) and productivity impact is indirect. Often quality is a minor focus during transportation waste elimination.

    There may be safety improvements related to moving heavy materials or forklift traffic also, but different that repetitive stress injuries related to motion waste.

    Reducing transportation typically enables continuous flow and one piece flow, which leads to work in process reduction and led tie reduction. Motion waste, not so.

    Getting rid of transportation is a big part of external changeover in SMED, while getting rid of motion waste is the big focus in speeding up internal changeover.

    The list could go on.

  5. Paul

    June 2, 2008 - 10:19 pm

    I think sometimes it’s a big WASTE of time to try so desperately to separate motion and transportation wastes, for they are quite similar and are sometimes even non-separable (especially if you consider a manufacturing plant). Categorization should be smart, adaptable to every case and always have common sense.

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