Lean Six Sigma

Business Process Waste Across Silos


Lean, while primarily known for manufacturing, has many tools and ideas that can apply to many industries that have no manufacturing component. Services have wastes, business and operational processes can have waste, software engineering and development has waste… you can find waste everywhere.

In Lean, efficiency falls into 3 classifications called Muda, Mura, and Muri. Muda (Waste) can often be the most neglected of the three when it comes to business processes – especially in regards to extra process steps or the flow of information from different points of origin. People can often recognize variations in the process (Mura) and unreasonable stresses placed on parts of the process (Muri), but they fail to look at how the chosen process is leading to wasteful situations. (see Lean Efficiency in Agile – Muda, Mura, Muri for more information)

They can recognize Muda on a smaller scale such as defects within single silos, but fail to recognize the consistent adding up of waste across multiple process steps that cross silos.  Processes spanning multiple departments or groups require the ability to work through silos and gain a visual of the overall system. It also requires buy-in from each of the departments involved, a buy-in that can be hindered by other bureaucratic processes.

For example:

Silo B receives input from Silo A. Silo B can recognize if Silo A gave them a poor quality output. Silo A may even recognize it before giving it to Silo B. No one considers if Silo B is even needed to contribute to the process. Silo C just accepts Silo’s B work, assuming that the entire collection of work they have received is all from Silo B.

Muda Wastes

8 Types of Waste in Lean - TIM WOODS

The TIM WOODS 8 Types of Waste

You hire and train some new staff to prepare for a busy season, but the next step in your process is unprepared for the surge of people you now have producing reports. This builds up an inventory. With new people just learning, that inventory could hide more defects. Now you run the risk of a new employee getting used to completing their job incorrectly for several weeks until you catch up on the backlog. You have a bunch of errors to fix and an employee who needs to be retrained. That stuff costs time and money.

The 8 types of Muda waste can be remembered with a simple acronym: TIM WOODS.

  • Transportation: The unnecessary movement of people, parts, or information between processes
  • Inventory: Money or space tied up in a backlog of inventory, potentially hiding defects
  • Motion: The unnecessary movement of people, parts, or information within a process
  • Waiting: Waiting for input into a process caused by things like defects, rework, production time differences
  • Over-processing: Processing beyond what the customer is paying for, over-exceeding quality tolerances
  • Over-production: Producing too much, exceeding the input limit of the next step in the process or completing too much product
  • Defects: Errors or quality issues within the final product
  • Staff/Skills Underutilization: Staff is not kept working at a consistent pace or the skills of the staff are not being used or recognized

*See TIM WOODS and Lean Waste and 8 Types of Muda Waste in Lean for more information

Books and Educational Material on Lean


Some of these types of waste impact others. Over-production can increase inventory which can increase defects. We often think of these types of waste in terms of manufactured product, but in non-manufacturing industries, it is possible to over-process your services or keep too many backlogged tasks in a virtual inventory.

And what causes an issue in one department, can impact another department. It can create a chain reaction of waste; with everyone blaming the prior department for all the defects, delays, or issues.


We can look within our silo and recognize that we are producing a garbage product, but we cannot always recognize if the waste is being accumulated by the entire process. As long as each process produces the desired result, it may not even be noticed that there is a problem. It takes a deep investigation to find the waste, perhaps you will find that some steps in the process are not even needed.


Images from pixabay.com

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