The Waste of Motion: How to Reduce it Effectively?

Waste of Motion

Waste reduction is one of the critical aspects of any organization. Waste of motion is one of the types of 8 waste in lean that silently infiltrates your processes, eroding productivity, increasing costs, and sapping your resources.

It addresses the unnecessary movement of people or equipment. Any type of wasted motion at your workplace not only consumes time and energy but also can lead to fatigue and safety risks for workers.

In this article, I will discuss waste of motion in detail like its symptoms, root causes, and how to avoid it using practical strategies. Join me learn these strategies to streamline your operations, boost efficiency, and liberate your organizations from this waste.

Are you ready to avoid motion waste in your workplace? let’s get started…


What is Motion Waste?

Imagine a car factory workers who are working in the assembly section and assembling a final car. Instead of having all the necessary tools and materials within arm’s reach, they have to constantly stretch, bend or walk to get what they need.

This unnecessary movement is nothing but motion waste. It’s like a never-ending dance of efficiency, wasting time, energy, and resources, without adding any value to the final product.

This is one of the 8 deadly wastes in lean manufacturing that you face at the workplace. In the 20th century, author and consultant Frank Bunker Gilbreath along with his wife conducted groundbreaking studies on motion and efficiency.

They observed workers’ movements and discovered that many actions were unnecessary and redundant. These pointless movements steal precious time and effort from the workers.

Pointless movements like reaching for tools placed far away, bending down repeatedly, or taking unnecessary steps while performing a task at the workplace. After this study, Frank named these pointless movements as Motion waste.

Later on the father of the Toyota Production System Taichii Ohno included this waste in the 8 waste of lean manufacturing. The purpose of lean manufacturing is to reduce the 8 types of waste (including motion) from the workplace and streamline the processes.

Waste of Motion

You know when motion waste creeps into your processes, it can have a detrimental impact on workplace productivity. Valuable time that could have been spent on value-adding tasks is wasted leading to inefficiencies.

And you know that inefficiencies in the process reduce the overall profitability of the organization. This waste can find in all types of industries as well as in different processes. Let’s see some examples.

  • Employees or workers have to walk long distances to access tools, equipment, or information during work processes.
  • Poor layout and organization of workstations or production lines, leading to increased movement and searching for tools, materials, or documents.
  • Tools and equipment are not being placed in their most optimal location, causing workers to reach, stretch, or bend unnecessarily.
  • Workstations that do not consider ergonomics lead to uncomfortable postures and repetitive movements that can cause strain and fatigue.
  • Tasks that require employees to frequently bend down or lift heavy objects, can lead to safety risks and physical strain.
  • Process that involves frequent and unnecessary hand movements such as sorting through documents or reaching for items.
  • Excessive handling or movement of documents, files, or paperwork that is not directly related to the task at hand.
  • Processes that involve unnecessary layers of approvals or sign-offs lead to additional movement and delays.
  • Difficulty in finding digital information or data due to poor organization or lack of standardized systems.
  • Poorly organized inventory storage causes workers to spend extra time searching for and retrieving materials.


Symptoms of this Waste

Here are some of the major symptoms of motion waste, by understanding these symptoms you can take action to prevent this waste.

  • Employees moving long distances to retrieve materials, tools, or information can indicate motion waste.
  • If materials are handled multiple times before being used in the manufacturing process, it can lead to inefficiencies and delays. This happens because of improper process flow and unclear material storage.
  • Workers having to perform awkward body movements to access tools or equipment can contribute to motion waste.
  • When employees frequently have to wait for equipment, materials, or information, it indicates inefficiencies in the process flow, leading to this waste.
  • If multiple employees are performing similar tasks simultaneously, it can indicate a lack of standardized work procedures or a lack of communication resulting in this waste.
  • Tools and equipment that are not positioned logically or are scattered across the workspace can cause unnecessary movement and waste valuable time.
  • Poor communication between team members or departments can lead to unnecessary movements to seek clarification or share information.
  • If excessive inspections or redundant quality checks are performed, it can lead to motion waste and slow down the production process.
  • Employees performing repetitive and non-value-added motions due to poorly designed work processes can contribute to this waste.


Root Causes of Motion Waste

Let’s have a look at the potential root causes of one of the deadliest wastes in lean manufacturing.

  • Poor layout and organization: Inefficient layouts and disorganized workspaces can lead to excessive movement. Workers may have to walk long distances to access the tools, materials, or machines, resulting in wasted time and effort.
  • Lack of standardization: When there are no standardized work procedures, employees may perform tasks in different ways, leading to inconsistent processes and unnecessary movements. 
  • Excessive batching: Batching or grouping tasks or products together can be beneficial in some cases, but excessive batching can lead to motion waste. Large batch sizes can result in additional movement and handling.
  • Poor ergonomics: Lack of ergonomic design in workstations and equipment might cause unnecessary motion since employees may need to change their posture or move awkwardly to complete tasks.
  • Unnecessary transportation: Unoptimized material handling and transportation processes can result in excessive movement of goods within the facility. This includes moving materials between workstations or departments in a way that adds no value.
  • Lack of visual management: Without clear visual cues and indicators, employees may spend more time searching for information, tools, or materials, increasing motion waste.
  • Inadequate training: Inadequate training can lead to mistakes and rework, which in turn leads to unnecessary motion as employees repeat tasks or move back and forth to correct errors.
  • Lack of proper communication: Poor communication can lead to misunderstandings, rework, and extra movement to clarify instructions or requirements amongst the workers. This contributes to motion waste.


How to Reduce Waste of Motion?

You know the symptoms and root causes of this waste. Now let’s understand the practical ways to reduce motion waste at your workplace.

  • Start by observing and analyzing the current process. Identify the tasks and steps involved in completing a particular job or operation. Look for any excessive or unnecessary movements during the process. You can use tools like process maps to understand the flow of process steps.
  • Go to the workplace (Gemba walk) and observe the actual work being done. Pinpoint the instances of motion waste like employees walking long distances, searching for tools, reaching for items, or bending and stretching too often.
  • Reduce the need for unnecessary movement by properly arranging the tools, equipment, and materials. Keep frequently used items within easy reach and maintain a clean and organized workspace.
  • Continuously review the process map and identify steps that don’t add value to the final product or service. If possible eliminate or streamline those steps to reduce the motion waste.
  • When possible group similar tasks together and organize the layout of workstations to minimize the distance employees need to travel between tasks.
  • Develop clear and standardized work procedures that are efficient and require minimal movement. Train employees on these procedures to ensure everyone follows the best practices.
  • Implement 5s methodology to organize and maintain a clean workspace. Sort, Set in order, Shine, Standardize, and Sustain the workspace to reduce clutter and streamline movement. Implementing 5s not only helps you reduce the motion waste but also helps you reduce all the other 7 waste in lean.
  • Use visual management which utilizes visual cues such as floor marking, color coding, labels, and signs to indicate where tools and equipment should be placed. Visual management helps employees quickly locate items, and reduce search and movement time.
  • Design workstations and processes with ergonomics in mind. Ensure that the equipment and layout support natural and comfortable movements, reducing strain on employees’ bodies.
  • The most important is to train your employees and make them aware of this waste and also teach them best practices or use of tools to reduce motion waste. Teach them how to use tools like VSM, 5s, Spaghetti diagrams, Standard work, Poka-yoke, Kanban, etc.



By eliminating motion waste you actually reduce the number of non-value-adding activities or steps and improve the efficiency of your processes. You save time and energy for your employees or workers which increases the overall productivity at the workplace.

In this article, I discussed the concept of Motion waste in detail along with some examples, its symptoms, and root causes. I also discussed some of the most effective strategies to reduce this waste and make your process flow smoothly.

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