Exploring Waste and Value in a Lean Context

  •  Diana Chronéer    
  •  Peter Wallström    


The purpose of this paper is to take a critical, analytical approach to the concepts of waste and value in the lean literature and how the concepts are applied in organisations’ lean efforts and the ambiguity surrounding the concept of value.

A review of the literature of lean was undertaken with a specific focus of the definitions of waste and value. In addition, it is illustrated how four case companies work with waste and value within a lean context. The literature review revealed that there have been significantly more frequent and exhaustive discussions of waste than of value. Waste is often related to the seven wastes, but value is rarely clearly defined. The cases show an exclusive focus on waste reduction, which we argue can result in a loss of value.

This paper provides a critical review of the relationship between waste and value and some of the consequences caused by the actions taken by companies regarding solely focusing on waste. This paper demonstrates the order winner and order qualifier dimensions should be regarded in the analysis of waste and value, and incorporated in the lean toolbox. In the lean research literature there is lack of discussion of the actual value for the customer. We argue that finding a special concept of value in the lean literature would be desirable, and elaborating on value as a specific tool in the lean toolbox, since the concept of ‘waste’ cannot replace the concept of ‘value’.

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