On the meaning of ‘waste’ : review and definition

Thurer, Matthias and Tomasevic, Ivan and Stevenson, Mark (2017) On the meaning of ‘waste’ : review and definition. Production Planning and Control, 28 (3). pp. 244-255. ISSN 0953-7287

[thumbnail of Thurer-Tomasevic-Stevenson_PPC_2016]
PDF (Thurer-Tomasevic-Stevenson_PPC_2016)
Thurer_Tomasevic_Stevenson_PPC_2016.pdf - Accepted Version
Available under License Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial.

Download (804kB)


Waste reduction is one of the main principles of lean, but it has been taken for granted that we have a common understanding of what waste means. We first present a critical, qualitative discussion that identifies four distinct waste concepts. We then conduct a systematic review of the literature that examines the different uses of these concepts. We find that only the classic concept of the seven wastes and the concept of waste as non-value-adding activity are widely applied. However, both concepts are, at times, not only incompatible but used in a way that leads to open contradiction. A new definition, centred on an efficient, timely transformation process seeks to consolidate the literature. We outline two distinct waste types: (i) obvious waste, to refer to any waste that can be reduced without creating another form of waste; and, (ii) buffer waste, to refer to any waste that cannot be reduced without creating another waste. The paper has important implications for practice. To reduce waste, managers must undertake three interlinked tasks: the elimination of obvious waste; the reduction of variability to transform buffers into obvious waste; and, the balancing of remaining buffers to best achieve performance targets. The paper supports managers in their endeavours to identify waste, which is an important precursor to waste reduction/elimination.

Item Type:
Journal Article
Journal or Publication Title:
Production Planning and Control
Additional Information:
This is an Accepted Manuscript of an article published by Taylor & Francis in Production Planning and Control on 28/11/2016, available online: http://www.tandfonline.com/10.1080/09537287.2016.1264640
Uncontrolled Keywords:
?? wasteleanbuffersystematic literature reviewstrategy and managementmanagement science and operations researchindustrial and manufacturing engineeringcomputer science applications ??
ID Code:
Deposited By:
Deposited On:
11 Nov 2016 11:36
Last Modified:
18 Dec 2023 01:42