It’s easy to confuse “Transportation Waste with “Motion” Waste. The former is the unnecessary movement of materials, while the latter is the unnecessary movement of people. Manufacturing is full of both.


Transportation Waste happens at every point in the supply chain, from raw material delivery to final assembly. To identify these Wastes, follow that chain and make note of the usual suspects along the way.

Here’s what you’ll find: Waste happens everywhere, but the instances happen less the earlier you are in your supply chain, as they are more costly per instance. However, while it’s more glaringly obvious with half-empty semis, half-full carts can be just as expensive due to increased frequency.

Waste Spin-Offs:

No Waste is an island. Besides wasting time, fuel, and giving you a stress headache, excessive transport can also lead to:

  • Over-Inventory: things get stacked up in temporary places only to be sorted through later
  • Defects: moving materials leads to dirt, damage, or loss.
  • Waiting: the more you shuffle things around, the less likely they’ll be in their designated spot when needed, resulting in waiting.

Start with your Supply Chain:

This begins with thinking of where to set up shop, but continues throughout the life of your business. How close are you to your vendors? If it’s excessive, and you’re back and forth often, is it worth paying little more upfront for closer suppliers? Don’t assume: do the math.

Half-full trucks are a glaring Waste. Find partners to share, even if that’s with a competitor (only if your vendors ensure confidentiality, of course).

Don’t fear the milk run. We assume that direct routes are more efficient and they often aren’t. When that trailer full of raw materials lands at your dock, is it going to gum up your processes to store it all?

Manufacturing storage - Transportation Waste in Lean business

How’s your Storage?:

Transportation Waste tends to be more obvious in receiving rather than production.

You’re getting regular deliveries. Are the trucks being unloaded into temporary storage that you’ll need to move again later, or are they going directly from first storage point to production? Plan for the latter, unless a small storage area at point of production is necessary (see below).

How full are your carts? Are your forklift operators driving with half-loads when they could be full? Always opt to maximize your transport efficiency between processes, especially if it’s a longer distance. There’s a caveat though: sometimes loading the last third of that cart involves waiting or motion waste that kills the efficiency.

Keep your lanes clear. If you have to weave around piles of temporary storage and random clutter, you’re wasting resources in so many ways. Paint lines for runways to keep clear between processes, if you have to.

Your Production Area:

Whether you’re making cars or crayons, your job is to assemble raw materials into a finished product in the most efficient way possible. When a worker frequently needs raw material, anything further than an arm’s length away is wasteful.

Are all materials close-at-hand when needed? If not, what’s the process in getting them from storage to the production area? If you’re bringing raw material over in tiny batches often, ask yourself if it would be beneficial to establish a smaller storage area at the point of production.

This tactic is closely tied to Motion Waste. Once you bring your raw materials closer, you can zero-in on the steps and movements your workers need to take.