Sources of Waste: Motion

by Jan 5, 2021Continuous improvement

This blog is one of a series of 7 blogs that discuss sources of waste.

This here blog will be devoted to motion as a source of waste which, in addition to the negative impacts on the performance of the company, is closely associated with problems of occupational injuries, in particular ergonomic problems.

By definition, waste could be associated with any step of a process that does not add value. Starting from this definition, we can conclude that moving that is not necessarily equivalent to working, because only the steps of a process that transform a product within the limits of the client’s needs are considered steps with added value. This makes it difficult to consider steps with complex motion or multiple trips as value-adding steps.

Waste due to unnecessary movement can give rise to several signs of problems that are either obvious and easily identifiable or hidden and that appear gradually.

The most obvious type of sign is a drop in labor efficiency, because if workers spend time moving, lifting, searching, removing, etc., rather than doing transformative tasks, the efficiency will likely be lower than desired.

A type of problem that is not necessarily directly visible is that associated with ergonomic hazards, and even machines that are required to make more movements than is necessary will be subject to more frequent maintenance during their life cycles.

Unnecessary motion associated with waste is generally caused by poor design and arrangement of workstations and/or work cells, poor planning of facilities, lack of worker training and suboptimal working methods.

In order to tackle this type of waste, there are several tools and methods. However, the simplest and most effective tool that one should consider first is the famous workplace organization method “5S” (from the Japanese seiri (整理), seiton (整頓), seisō (清掃), seiketsu (清潔), and shitsuke (躾))1. It allows the questioning of every step and every movement and the elimination of those which are unnecessary.

Other methods that aim to standardize work methods or to minimize the time for certain necessary operations (e.g., changeover time) are also methods whose effects can be felt immediately.

Finally, it is relevant to remember that the fact of intervening in order to eliminate waste caused by unnecessary motion will considerably reduce the number of steps without added value. Moreover, workstations become safer and more ergonomic, which creates a safety-performance bond that must always be sought for to avoid actions taken as part of the “necessary evil”.


1 In some industries, the 5S has become 6S, with a 6th element, safety/safe.

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Intervention Prévention Inc.

Intervention Prévention concentrates its operations in the field of work safety, offering specialized services following Standards CSA Z462 – Workplace Electrical Safety, CSA Z460 – Control of Hazardous Energy: Lock-out and Other Methods, and CSA Z432 – Safeguarding of Machinery.


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