TIM WOOD could perhaps be the person that you’ve been looking for to help improve your retail operations. Lean Six Sigma is an important project management methodology for the future of retail. In fact, it’s important for all consumer facing businesses, particularly those in challenging markets. Lean thinking offers Project Managers the chance to improve processes, cut waste, reduce cost and focus on the customer. TIM WOOD (or TIMWOOD) is one of the key concepts or philosophies in Lean and it introduces the 7 wastes.

What is Waste?

Often, people think of waste as literally a product that is disposed of or thrown away. In Lean, waste can include this literal rubbish but is also is different.

Lean brings the concept of analysing a process and assessing if the process steps are value add or non value add for customers.

Value add activities are something that the customer is willing to pay for. Waste is anything that is non value add. Anything that is not helping the customer.

In Lean Six Sigma, this non value add activity is divided into 7 wastes. (Occasionally people refer to other wastes and we’ll dive into this later).

Origins of the 7 Wastes

Toyota introduced the concept of the 7 wastes in the early years of lean manufacturing. Between 1948 and 1975, Japanese car producer, Toyota used a series of logical and systematic improvements to advance their manufacturing capabilities and performance. This became known as the Toyota Production System.

One of the key themes of the Toyota Production System was to cut out waste – or “muda” as it known in Japanese. This eventually developed into the concept of “Lean”. A significant part of this is the focus on cutting out muda or waste. By making process waste easier to identify, it made it easier to make improvements to eliminate it.

So, the 7 wastes were originally identified as part of the Toyota Production System.

In turn, these 7 wastes would be developed into the acronym TIM WOOD.

What does TIM WOOD Mean? What does TIM WOOD Stand For?

TIM WOOD is an acronym that can help you remember the 7 wastes. Let’s dive into each of these and give some retail based examples.

Transport – moving stock and materials takes time and energy

Moving materials and stock when customers don’t need it moved. Not only is this a waste of time and energy, but all movement increases the likelihood of damaging the materials or products.

At home, the Banks family often refer to “the double move” to minimise this form of waste!

Examples include:

  • Dragging stock out for replenishment when it is not needed.
  • Reorganising and relaying stock rooms or warehouses.
  • Searching for places to merchandise products (or looking for the right place).
  • Double handling of stock.

Inventory – High stock holding when it is not needed right now

Having excessive materials to hand that are not needed right now. Not only do these materials get in the way, but they also can cause other forms of TIM WOOD waste. Extra materials (or stock tie) up working capital which could otherwise be invested into other areas of the business or bottom line.

Different types of inventory are:

  1. Raw materials – these need more processing or work before they are ready for customers.
  2. Work in progress (WIP) – work has started but needs more effort before it is complete.
  3. Finished products – ready for customers.
  4. Miscellaneous items such as spare parts for equipment and supplies not for resale.

All inventory need to be stored safely and securely, irrespective of which type they are. Plus, all tie up working capital.

In retail, this is the most obvious of all of the TIM WOOD waste types as it is often physical stock so very visible. Generally, people understand that high stock levels result in wasted work. After peak trading periods, like Christmas, stores often keep a focus on clearing stock rooms and reducing stock levels.

Additional retail examples of excessive inventory waste are:

  • Full stock rooms which prevent you accessing the stock that you actually need, resulting in repeatedly moving stock around.
  • Buying extra levels of goods not for resale, including bags, till roll, etc.
  • Damaged stock from being stored for too long.

Motion – moving around but not actually getting things done

Movement of people that does not add value to the process. This is particularly common in retail stores where there are relatively large distances to travel. Journeying from stock room to shop floor and around fixtures can add huge distances, adding up to many miles over the course of a day.

Examples of this type of waste include:

  • Poorly designed work stations resulting in more bending, reaching and steps.
  • Travelling to a location in store multiple times to do different tasks.
  • Switching tasks excessively, resulting in moving between locations and to get different equipment.
  • Walking from A to B without moving anything else.

Waiting – unwanted delays when work still needs to be done

When materials, people or equipment are not ready, it leads to idle time and delays. When processes interact with other processes, it’s essential to sync up handovers so that no waiting time happens. Too much waiting time can result in frustration or boredom for the people involved. This frustration can then lead to activities that are different types of TIM WOOD waste.

Examples include:

  • Waiting for late deliveries to arrive before replenishment can start.
  • Ringing call centres or store support hotlines and waiting on hold.
  • Slow computers and IT systems, resulting in a quick job taking ages.

Over processing – going beyond what’s good enough

Doing more than is required. Customers do not value too much effort on a particular process or process step. This could also include complicated processes with equipment or materials that are over engineered for the operation in question.

Examples of over processing in a retail setting are:

  • Doing extra checks… just in case.
  • Getting excessive and unnecessary sign off or approvals on an activity or output.
  • Excessive levels of facing up in areas that customers don’t care about.
  • Including over the top levels of packaging.

Over production – all too easy in a retail environment

It is a waste of time and money to producing more than is needed. Without properly understanding the volumes that customers require, you risk creating more than needed. Over production of products will also result in retail discounting to sell through stock. Plus it can also result in needing to dispose of unsold and unsaleable stock.

Examples of this type of waste are:

  • High stock orders in the hope that you’ll sell them through.
  • Producing fresh products at the wrong time.
  • Collecting data and never using the information.

Defects – perhaps the worst of them all, leading to more TIM WOOD waste

Errors create significant waste. The initial error itself wastes time and money. But it doesn’t stop there. Defects are likely to lead to rework, extra checking and delays to other parts of the process.

Examples of Defect waste include:

  • Stock record inaccuracy causing out of stocks and poor availability.
  • Pricing errors leading to missed sales or leaving money on the table.
  • Product defects resulting in customer dissatisfaction, high return rates and double handling.

However, this is not all. Defects can actually lead to waste across all 7 types in the TIM WOOD acronym. Examples could include:

  • Over producing to allow for an expected defect rate and consequentially high inventory and working capital.
  • Additional movement and transport to deal with the defect or rework.
  • Adding extra checks or inspection steps into the process.

Other Waste Types

TIM WOOD or TIM WOODS – what’s the difference

One of the biggest debates about the 7 wastes is whether there are actually 7 or if there is an 8th. The 8th waste is commonly referred to as Skills. Conveniently, this turns our TIM WOOD acronym into TIM WOODS.

Not using the skills of your workforce is a waste. Using highly paid staff members to do easy and time consuming jobs is wasteful.

Examples in a retail setting are:

  • Managers sitting on checkouts or replenishing stock.
  • Admin tasks that take a lot of effort or have specialist skills.
  • Staff not trained in key processes or equipment.

Behavioural waste – company culture can result in more waste

The other waste that is common place in retail is behavioural or cultural waste. This is around the attitude of your team rather than the process steps involved.

Examples include:

  • Not adopting change because “we’ve always done it this way.”
  • Staff turnover and excessive absenteeism and sickness.
  • Micro-managing staff activities and work.
  • Preparing for a “royal visit” from a senior leader rather than focusing on customers.

Using TIM WOOD on Your Lean Journey

Once you understand the lean concept of waste, you can start to find it and eliminate it. Remember TIM WOOD (or TIM WOODS!) as you review your operations and processes. Challenge whether customers really value a particular process or process step.

Another of the key philosophies of lean is continuous improvement. Once you have eliminated some waste, it’s likely that more waste will become visible. Continuously look to identify and eliminate this waste to optimise your retail operations.

To do this, make people aware of the different types of waste. Share this article with your team members and colleagues to tell them about TIM WOOD. Together, you can then use the 7 wastes to improve your operation.

You may also enjoy reading about how to take lean principles and apply them to how you manage projects: Read more about lean project management.

project management expert Oliver BanksAbout the Author

Oliver Banks is an expert at delivering retail change projects and programmes. He’s used many different techniques years of working on different types and sizes of projects. He blends classic project management techniques from PRINCE2, PMBOK and Lean Six Sigma with a dose of pragmatism and business reality to ensure retail projects are led, managed and delivered successfully.


project management expert Oliver Banks

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