Breaking Down the 8 Wastes in Lean Construction

Aleczander Gamboa

Breaking Down the 8 Wastes in Lean Construction

When we think about waste in construction, often, our minds picture physical waste from excess materials and papers to general litter throughout the construction site. 

But in the Lean Construction methodology, waste isn’t just physical and actually comes in a variety of forms. The easiest way to remember all eight is by following the DOWNTIME acronym, which we’ve broken down below. 

But first, what is the Lean Construction methodology?

Our team has covered Lean Construction in previous blog articles. As a refresher, Lean Construction is a methodology that construction workers can use to eliminate waste and maximise value.

Through a range of tools and techniques, construction teams can operate in a ‘lean’ manner and therefore enhance productivity. Part of the process involves identifying issues in your current framework and working together as a team to eliminate them for a better build overall.

So, what construction waste are you talking about?

As previously mentioned, there are eight types of waste in construction.


A defect is any process that isn’t completed correctly on the first attempt, resulting in unnecessary reworks. For example, a flooring material not installed per specifications is considered a defect. To prevent or minimise this from happening, it helps to have a historical record of all site issues and a place to track punch list items on-the-go.


This refers to the overproduction of materials, which then creates more work than actually is required. The excess materials will overlap with another type of lean waste known as inventory waste. When these two collide, you and your team will need to spend more time trying to store the materials in an often overcrowded construction site. If plans happen to change during your construction schedule, then there is a possibility you’ll need to change materials as well, resulting in unused materials.


Lapses in the workflow can occur when prerequisite tasks have not been completed or the essential materials needed to build haven’t been delivered. In other words, subbies are left waiting. The solution to this is supply chain visibility, specifically having access to updated real-time information that is fed through from any device or location. 

Not utilising talent

This means not harnessing the specific skills and experiences that construction workers have, and then matching them with the best corresponding tasks. Regardless of your role in a build, your team is your greatest asset. As such, they should be provided the tools and support needed to thrive in their roles. To know which workers suit which tasks best, communication is key. Using construction management software enables on and off-field communication and collaboration in real-time. Construction technology ensures everyone’s skills are being utilised. 


Transport waste is the excessive movement of equipment or materials. Examples include movement from one construction site to another, or from a material laydown area then to the actual work area. Of course, transport is necessary in construction, however, it can be minimised through optimised communication, task management and sending updated information to your team in real-time. Construction management software enables open communication to ensure everyone — whether they’re in the office or at a job site — is on the same page. 


We touched on this above, but inventory waste is the stockpile of materials that are not immediately necessary. This can take up vital space in your construction site and lead to degradation if stored for too long. Although having some inventory on hand is essential for a project to progress, you should aim to minimise it as much as possible. Doing so prevents extra handling (which takes up time and effort) and also increases your storage space.


Motion refers to any excessive or non-productive movement by humans. Think of it as the extra steps workers need to take to accomplish their tasks. For example, it could be the time spent looking for information, or trying to make sense of a poorly designed work area. To reduce the amount of motion, digital construction management tools can help you organise important information so they are easy to find for future reference. 

Excessive Processing

Excessive Processing is when you add features or activities that aren’t providing more value in the eyes of the client. This includes tasks like double-handling material, which can be easily avoidable with the right communication. It can also refer to administrative workflows like double data entry, multiple signatures on forms, or the sending/replying/forwarding of emails with drawing and RFIs. Using construction technology can be a solution to this, as most digital tools help you to easily organise important files and information, ensuring everyone in the supply chain are on the same page.

See our construction management software in action and get lean

If you’re looking for ways to implement Lean Construction methodology in your construction builds, tracking your materials in the supply chain is essential.

At Matrak, we specialise in material tracking and solutions for head contractors, suppliers, installers and manufacturers. 

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