Lean Principle - 8 Categories of Waste

The first step in improving labor productivity in construction is improving everyone’s ability to see the waste.

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Field Productivity: Lean Principle - 8 Categories of Waste

The human mind is amazing at pattern recognition - that is how our brains process the world.  Consider simple categories of threat vs. non-threat that keeps us alive. Diving deeper into categories of food - bitter (many poisons) or sweet (yummy + quick energy).  Colors - there are millions of them and they start with high levels of primary colors and get subsequently broken down into more detail.  

This level of categorization helps keep us alive and allows us to communicate with each other.  We can all look at a stop sign and say “red” where a computer would communicate ‘#e70707” as the specific color.  

We know that our role is to create the “Perfect Day” and we do that by looking at every step in the process identifying only those that add value and looking at the 3 major enemies of a lean operation.  

Waste can then be broken down into 8 major categories.  Like colors these are often interrelated. Look at your day and see if you can identify any of these:

  1. Defects
  2. Overproduction
  3. Waiting
  4. Non-Utilized Talent
  5. Transportation
  6. Inventory
  7. Motion
  8. Excess Processing

The acronym ‘DOWNTIME’ will help you remember.


Quiz others on your team.  Turn it into a game. This is where productivity improvements start.  

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Labor Productivity
Field labor is the often the biggest variable on a construction project - making it the biggest risk and opportunity....

Labor Productivity
Field labor is the often the biggest variable on a construction project - making it the biggest risk and opportunity....

The Average Field Day in Detail (Craft Labor + Foreman)
Labor is often the biggest cost variable on a construction project. Just over half the field hours are related to actual installation. Understanding how time is spent on average in the field is the first step to improving field productivity.
Lean Principle - Stop Work (Until Problems Are Corrected)
All construction projects will run into some degree of problems. It is how the project team chooses to manage these problems that ultimately determines the outcome of the project.
Lean Principle - Kaizen (Every Detail Matters)
As contractors build their businesses, it is important to look at every detail from the first meeting with a potential customer through winning and building the project. This same attention to detail also applies to supporting operations and talent.