The 7 mudas: Do you know what are the 7 wastes of companies?

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We are in the middle of the Technology Society. New work tools appear every year that make the others obsolete, but we cannot forget that industries continue to produce and manufacturing methods do not vary too much: they can change the tools and machines, but there a number of concepts that do not change and we cannot ignore this.

In this post, we will analyse the main factors of performance in a production system, concentrating on 7 MUDAS, one of the most lean concepts to transfer to any situation and in any kind of organization, whether in the manufacturing of goods or providing services.

MUDA, a Japanese term meaning “futility; uselessness; idleness; superfluity; waste; wastage; wastefulness”, is 7 concepts by the engineer Taiichi Ohno, author of the well-known just in time Toyota Production System.

Types of wastefulness or waste:

  • Overproduction
  • Waiting
  • Transport
  • Inappropriate processes or over-processing
  • Overstock
  • Unnecessary movement
  • Defects

Let’s consider the meaning of each of these concepts: It deals with analysing the production process to eliminate or reduce waste as an effective way to increase profitability.

We can define wastefulness as any resource that we use too much, concerning what is necessary to produce goods or provide a service.

Types of wastefulness or waste:

Producing more than demanded or producing something before it’s necessary. Very often, there is the false belief that it is preferable to produce large batches to minimize production costs and store them in stock until the market needs them. However, this malpractice is clearly wasteful, given that it uses resources such as labour, raw materials, and finances that should have been spent on things that are more necessary.

This not only refers to a finished product since overproducing can happen in any process, that is to say, producing more than you need for the next process, producing before the following process needs it or producing faster than the following process requires.

The main causes of overproduction are:

  • A logical “just in case”: produce more than necessary “just in case”;
  • A bad use of automation and letting the machines work at maximum capacity;
  • Poor production planning;
  • A distribution of production that is not balanced over time.

Waiting is the time for the completion of the production process, in which no value is added. This includes waiting for material, information, machines, tools, delays in batch process, breakdowns, bottlenecks, human resources…

In manufacturing terms, we speak of “bottlenecks”, where waiting is generated in the production process because one phase is faster than the one following it, so that the material reaches the next stage before it can be processed.


Another example is that we experience every day is when there is a meeting with different people and personnel arrive late: If 8 people are supposed to attend the meeting and it cannot begin due to the lack of “punctuality” of any of the attendees, it will cause us a delay of 5 min x 8 people = 40 minutes of WASTE. In other words, lost money unnecessarily.

The causes of waiting can be:

  • Misusing automation: letting the machines work and that the operator is at their service when it should be the opposite;
  • Having an unbalanced process: when a part of a process runs faster than a previous step;
  • Unplanned maintenance that requires stopping the line to clean or fix a breakdown;
  • A long start-up process;
  • Poor production planning;
  • Poor management in purchases or not being in sync with suppliers • Quality problems in the previous processes.

Any unnecessary movement of goods and raw materials must be minimized, since it is a waste that does not add value to the product. Transport materials and not think of the return represents a 50% efficient transport. An efficient route must be provided, either within the company or outside. Transportation costs money, equipment, fuel, and labour, and also increases delivery times.


It is also important to consider that every time an item moves it can be damaged. To prevent this we must insure the product for transport, which also requires labour and materials. Or the material can be placed in an inadequate space temporarily, meaning that it must be moved again in a short period of time, which will cause unnecessary labour costs again.

Inefficient transport of material can be caused by:

  • Poor distribution in the plant;
  • The product does not flow continuously;
  • Large production runs, long delivery times, and large storage areas.
Inappropriate processes or over-processing

The optimization of processes and continuously reviewing them is essential for reducing unnecessary steps when having improved the process. Doing extra work on a product is a waste that must be eliminated, and it is one of the most difficult to detect, given that the person responsible for over processing does not they are doing it. For example: cleaning twice, or simply making a report that no one will see.


We must ask ourselves why a process is necessary and why a product is produced. After this reflection, it is important to remove all unnecessary processes.

The possible causes of such losses are:

  • A logical “just in case”: do something “just in case”;
  • A change in the product without a change in the process;
  • Customer requirements are unclear;
  • Miscommunication;
  • Unnecessary approvals or monitoring;
  • Excessive information that results in more copies.

This refers to accumulated stock throughout the production system and its movement inside the plant, which affects both the materials, like parts under process, as well as the finished product. This excess of raw material, work in process or finished product adds no value to the client, but many companies use the inventory to minimize the impact of inefficiencies in their processes. The inventory that exceeds what is necessary to meet the needs of the customer has a negative impact on the economy of the company and uses valuable space. Often a stock is a source of loss due to products that become obsolete, potential for harm, and time spent on counting and monitoring and quality errors hidden for longer times.


The causes of this loss can be:

  • Prevention of possible cases of inefficiency or unexpected problems in the process;
  • A complex product that can cause problems;
  • Poor production planning;
  • Prevention of possible material shortages by inefficient providers;
  • Miscommunication;
  • A logical “just in case”: have stock “just in case”.

Unnecessary movement

All unnecessary movement of people or equipment that do not add value to the product is wastefulness. Includes people in the company going up and down for documents, searching, choosing, bending over, etc. Even walking is unnecessarily wasteful. These wastes cause increased operator fatigue with consequent lower back problems and other ailments, as well as a decrease in time spent doing what really adds value.


The most common causes of unnecessary movement are:

  • Low efficiency of workers (for example, not taking advantage of travelling to an area of poor accessibility to do everything needed there, instead of going twice);
  • Bad working methods: inefficient workflow, inconsistent or poorly documented work methods;
  • Poor layout in the plant: Incorrect layout;
  • Lack of order, cleanliness and organization (for example, if the tools cannot be found the operator must go and look for them).

Manufacturing defects and service errors do not add value and produce a huge waste, since we consume materials, labour for reprocessing and/or handling complaints, and especially it can cause customer dissatisfaction.


Therefore, it is preferable, to prevent defects rather than find and eliminate.

The causes of these defects can be:

  • Lack of monitoring in the process;
  • Low quality;
  • Poorly planned maintenance;
  • Insufficient training of operators;
  • Poor product design.

Lately, Human Resource Wastage has been considered as the eighth waste and refers to not using the creativity and intelligence of the workforce to eliminate waste and for different reasons:

  • An outdated company culture and policy that undervalues the operators;
  • Insufficient education or training for workers;
  • Low wages that do not motivate workers;
  • A mismatch between the strategic plan of the company and its communication to the staff.

In summary, we can say that we must be aware that all this wastefulness does not add value to the product or service paid by the customer, so they represent a direct cost to the company.

The reduction or elimination of wastefulness will lead to an improvement in costs and therefore becoming more competitive, giving greater flexibility and efficiency in our production process. All company personnel must become specialists in eliminating wastefulness. To accomplish this, the management of the organization must foster an environment that promotes the generation of ideas and the continuous elimination of wastefulness.

Apply a systematic reduction and elimination of waste system and get immediate results: 

  • reduction of costs
  • increased productivity
  • work area organization
  • team motivation
  • improving the image of the company with respect to suppliers
  • among other results

It is also important to be able to design a sustainable system over time based on continuous improvement, given that the main problems arise with the maintenance of the improvements achieved and the scarce adaptation of the company to new changes in the environment.

For more information, please contact us.


PrevenControl es la firma especializada en seguridad y salud laboral que propone soluciones eficaces e innovadoras para la mejora del negocio y la reputación de sus clientes a través de la consultoría, el uso de la tecnología y la formación.

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