The 8 Wastes of Lean: Part 3 – Motion

|  3 minute read

The next part of our 8 Wastes series is one of the less tangible types of waste. Motion occurs in every work station, and while each movement made adds to the overall cost of a process, it may not be immediately apparent. Every time someone reaches for cardboard boxes, or twists to grab a roll of adhesive tape, there’s waste involved.

Learn more with Signet’s key tips on the third of the 8 Wastes of Lean: Motion.

What is Motion waste?

Motion refers to any kind of movement made by either humans or equipment that adds no value to a service or product. In other words, bending, lifting, pushing or pulling is creating waste, as these actions add no value to the final product. This is different to Transport waste, which is the actual movement of items.

In order to fully understand this type of waste and implement improvements, it is important to understand the needs of your customers. Any additional movement undertaken to provide a product or service to your customer is adding no value, as they would not be willing to pay more for the extra Motion involved.

Effectively identifying where Motion occurs in processes is the key to eliminating the waste, and keeping the processes in line with customers’ needs, and therefore customer satisfaction. Motion waste is usually caused by:

  • Reorientation of materials
  • Poor layout of the workstation that results in excessive movement like bending, walking and reaching
  • Extensive batch sizes
  • Poor design of processes
  • Poor organisation of the workplace
  • Design of a product itself

Following a process through from start to finish and observing where movement is occurring can help identify where the waste is occurring. Once the waste is reduced, the symptoms will also start to be eliminated. Some symptoms that occur when excess Motion is used are:

  • Reduced level of work efficiency
  • Possible injuries– these can be short-term or built up over time
  • Extensive machine movements may lead to breakdowns or more frequently needed servicing

Ensuring any unnecessary motion is avoided will help maximise production levels. This will add value both to the business itself, and to customers.

Examples of Motion waste

  • Rearranging components during tasks
  • Covering extensive distances when collecting tools, packaging supplies and other items
  • Reaching for objects on high or low shelves
  • Constantly twisting, bending or reaching around a desk in the office
  • Unnecessary movement during assembly procedures

Once the areas and the specific Motions are identified, there are tools and techniques which can help to quickly and effectively remove this waste from the workplace.

How to reduce or eliminate motion waste:

One of the most powerful Lean tools that will help reduce or eliminate Motion waste is known as “5S”. This can be applied to areas where excessive movement has been identified. Motion will naturally be reduced when areas are efficiently organised:


Identify all the items and procedures in a work station and remove anything unnecessary. Disposing of items or parts that are not used is a simple way to improve efficiency. Items that are used infrequently can be kept away from the work station.


Reorganising the layout of the work station ensures the unnecessary movements of both workers and machines are drastically reduced. Frequently used objects should be kept within close reach, and less frequently used items can be kept further away.


Ensuring the work area, tools and other equipment are cleaned regularly keeps the work station functional.


Keeping the work area to a specific standard with clear procedures to follow helps ensure standards are kept.


Once in place, the procedures need to be followed continuously. Regular audits and training can help with this step. Further improvements can be made, and the goal should be to have the set standards followed without intervention.

Next month’s 8 Wastes guide will be on Waiting, so keep an eye out for more on how to reduce waste in your business.

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