StephaneStéphane Denerolle

The construction industry is responsible for the creation of remarkable achievements, but unfortunately, it can also be responsible for generating inefficiency and waste. Studies show that more than 50 percent of the time spent on construction in the United States is wasted on unproductive activities; anything that can be eliminated without diminishing the value of work for a customer.

The Seven Wastes in construction (or seven mudas of lean construction or lean manufacturing), according to Lean literature, are outlined below, along with simple ways to avoid them and an eighth waste that’s emerging in the construction industry:

eight wastes in construction

1) Transportation

The unnecessary movement of materials or equipment. This can involve movement from one jobsite to another, or from a yard to a material laydown area and then again to the actual work area. While this type of waste cannot be eliminated entirely, transportation can be minimized as it not only adds time to the whole construction process but exposes the material to handling damage.

2) Inventory

When overproduction results in excess waste. This includes material being stored on-site or at the fabrication yard, work in progress, and unused tools or parts. While having some inventory on hand is necessary to keep the project moving, these materials should be minimized as much as possible as they tend to require a fair bit of handling (effort) and storage space.

3) Motion

Extra steps taken by people to accomplish their work as a result of inefficient processes. This includes time spent looking for a tool or file, as well as walking extra yards due to a poorly designed work area. With 70 percent of a craftspersons day wasted on field coordination, it’s important you leverage construction management technology to reduce this number dramatically.

4) Waiting

When crews are left waiting for the delivery of material or equipment, or for the completion of a preceding activity. This also applies to anyone on the project waiting for information, such as field personnel waiting for a plan or an RFI, a scheduler waiting for progress updates, or payroll waiting for time sheets. Having real-time access to this information in the field — from any device or location — will help crews reduce this type of waste.

5) Overproduction

The process of fabricating material too soon or ordering extra material because of poor quality, rather than producing and delivering the right amount of material at the time it is needed. Yes, manufacturing or ordering too much material causes waste, but so does having inventory arrive onsite before it is needed. When this happens, you’ll need to store it on an often over-crowded site, and if your plans change, you’ll need to change specifically what you’re using too.

6) Over-Processing

Refers to the unnecessary steps taken in the project value chain, such as transforming or double-handling material. This also relates to coordination and administrative workflows on a construction project that leads to double data entry, such as multiple signatures on forms, organizing field notes into a report, redundant daily logs, and forwarding emails with drawings and RFIs. Eliminating paperwork and having one place to communicate from will ensure jobsite teams are always on the same page and information isn’t lost in various paper files.

7) Defects

Incorrect work that needs to be repaired, replaced, or redone. This includes damaged material, rework, or punch list items. For example, a flooring material not installed per specifications or a finished wall damaged by the electrical contractor would fall under the category of Defects. Having a historical record of all site issues and one place to track punch items on-the-fly will help you minimize the prevalence of defects.

8) Skills and Underutilized Talent

Failing to make use of people’s skills, creativity, or knowledge on the project is an additional waste commonly found in the industry. This is not one of the traditional Seven Wastes (or seven mudas) found in Lean literature, but it is accepted as an additional waste commonly found in the industry, and turns the common mnemonic from “TIM WOOD” to “TIM WOODS”. Your people are your greatest asset, so they should be empowered with the tools they need to thrive. Using construction management software is one way of doing so.

McKinsey reports that investment in construction technology has doubled, with companies garnering $10 billion in investment between 2011 and 2017. But while the investment is there, the adoption is not; only 20 percent of construction companies have a fully integrated project management system, according to KPMG. Meaning the majority of construction companies are not operating as efficiently as they could be, and, in turn, are wasting valuable time each week.

We hope this post which has been updated from a previous version for accuracy and comprehensiveness, will give you some ideas on how to be less wasteful and more productive on your next construction project. If you have any comments or questions about the content of this blog post, please let us know by emailing us at

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