Why Motion is Not Work

Motion - Road at Night. This image is CC0!

The most astonishing result of my “Worst Waste Survey” (on the sidebar) so far is that out of 47 votes exactly 0 (zero) votes are for motion waste. This is an interesting contrast to a quote from Taichi Ohno in his book “Workplace Management”:

Why is it that many people do not perceive motion as major waste? I see the following reasons:

  • Motion costs energy. What costs energy is perceived as work, and work is seen as value.
  • Motion gives a feeling of business. For many people it is important to appear busy.
  • Motion is ephemeral. Once it is performed it is gone, so you do not a lasting waste.
  • Motion is positively loaded when you think about sports. Motion at work is not the same as sports performed in your free time.

From a Lean perspective it is different. Here are the reasons why motion is not work:

  • Like transportation, is does not create results in itself, therefore not adding value. The fewer motion you need to perform a task, the better.
  • Motion is also similar to over-processing. In many cases, the two go hand in hand. If you can so something in a more simple way you also reduce motion.
  • In contrast to over-producing, motion does not create additional inventory waste. But it increases the time to perform a task, thus adding to waiting waste.
  • No matter if in your job or at home, when you do something the goal should be to maximize added value. If you are a sports professional that includes motion, in all other cases not.

Having said that, I concur with the result of the vote:

Should the elimination of motion waste be post-poned until all other waste is gone? What do you think?

Posted in Waste Tagged with: ,

4 comments on “Why Motion is Not Work

  1. Joel Gross on said:

    Another reason why motion is not perceived as a major waste . . . It may be, arguably, the most difficult of the waste to associate with its cost. I’m not suggesting you do so by any means, but it’s more difficult to quantify the impact of a few extra therbligs than it is a few defects or even an extra transportation step. Our minds struggle to conceptualize the penalty, and therefore, for all the reasons you state above, assume the cost to be less severe than others.

  2. Jens R. WoinowskiJens R. Woinowski on said:

    Yes, I missed that. Especially in manufacturing single extra movements of half a minute are nearly invisible. Only when you accumulate it over the day you see the effect on lead time.

    At home, it’s easier. Every time I run about the house to fetch things I forgot my wife makes fun of me, saying “this is not lean.” 🙂 But that does not cause costs.

    Another favourite example of mine for motion waste can be observed in restaurants – waiter running to the kitchen empty handed although tables are full of dirty dishes. We even have a “rule” for that in Germany: “Never walk with empty hands.”

    Again, it is similar at home. Why not take some washed kitchen towels with you from the bathroom when your next destination is the kitchen?

  3. Stephen Guise on said:


    Interesting post here. A quote I love that’s somewhat related to this topic is from Benjamin Franklin:

    “Never confuse motion with action.”

    • Jens R. WoinowskiJens R. Woinowski on said:

      I’m happy you like the post. Interesting that there is this quote from Franklin.

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