Lean Procurement Practices for Reducing Food Waste

Written by Yvonne Ong Hwee Ping, DPSM

by Yvonne Ong Hwee Ping, DPSM

Lean procurement practices are often viewed as how to enhance the procurement process and workflows, reducing time and eliminating waste, lower costs while improving the standard of products and services, improve the performance and responsiveness of suppliers, increase the main target on those activities that add value to the firm and enhance procurement’s strategic instead of transactional focus.

What Causes Food Waste

Food waste could happen at anywhere and anytime. Some foods are even losing before they leave the farms. During production stage garbage might be thanks to insufficient skills, over order, natural calamities, lack of proper infrastructure, transportation and over-production. It also occurs when edible food is intentionally discarded by consumers once they over purchase what they have, improper storage or goes past the expiry date. Retailers will tend to reject foods which don’t meet their requirement like quality, packaging and cosmetic defect.

Images was taken from https://www.foodbev.com/news/tackling-the-problem-of-food-waste-in-manufacturing/

Waste Classification

There are several types of classifying waste and the following 8 types are the common classification, as follows:

1. Defects

Additional wasted time and energy are required to repair or replace a defective item. This is commonly caused by a lack of standards, weak production systems, as well as poor quality control and process.

2. Inventory

Holding of excess amounts of stock, materials or equipment and it is typically caused by one of the other lean wastes – overproduction

3. Motion

Walking a couple of steps to urge raw materials or stretching to succeed in a tool, by moving the item to a better location would scale back this excess motion.

4. Waiting

Waiting is that the most wasteful activities which are caused by poor communication, downtime, delay, machinery breaking down and processes.

5. Overproduction

Producing more than what is needed, manufacturing it at a faster rate than is required by the customer and storing unnecessary inventory.

6. Over-processing

Supply Chain Ads

Over-processing are often caused by poor project management during development and not understanding customer needs.

7. Transport

The movement of individuals, documents, or information and encompasses anything that’s moved between manufacturing, the point of sale materials, tools, and the finished products.

8. Underutilized talent

Not utilizing people to their fullest potential including time, talent, skill, and ideas.

Procurement Process for Waste Elimination

Responsible suppliers whom conduct their business taking into account social and environmental impact. Purchasing standard can cover every step of the supplier’s supply chain that has ingredients traceability, relationships with suppliers, distribution methods, natural resources consumption, packaging and waste management.

The purchase of responsible products usually goes along side by side with responsible suppliers, and attention on the products may be a different strategy. Procurement teams attempt to find products that are by themselves skilled than similar ones. A product’s responsibility is often linked to its ingredients, source, production methods or packaging. 

Image taken from https://sipmm.edu.sg/events/adpsm/

Measurement and data analysis of buying history and usage may be considered to optimize decisions and minimize waste. Procurement teams should analyze purchasing history in terms of volumes and costs. Usage of actual products and waste should be measured to reduce waste and overproduction.

Image was taken from https://sipmm.edu.sg/key-strategies-build-effective-supplier-relationship-management/

Education is the key to procurement teams who should be aware of the impact of the food they purchase. Procurement teams should be conscious of issues linked to the product they purchase. However, procurement managers cannot choose the skilled option albeit theyneeded. They are required to consider factors like volumes, price, logistics, and food safety to beat these obstacles and helping procurement teams in their fight against food wastage.

Lean Principles for Procurement Practices

  • Defining Value

Value means what’s worth to your customers and what they’re willing to buy. Not the simplest product but the simplest product suitable to the customer.

  • Mapping the Value Stream

Understand what’s valuable to your customers and to carve a path to succeed in that value goal. To formalizing steps to manufacture the products by defining and documenting each and each step within the process from raw materials to finished products.

  • Continuous Flow

Once eliminated the wastes has been eliminated, ensure that the steps flow smoothly from one to subsequent. All operations should flow smoothly with none interruptions, bottlenecks or delays.

  • Pull instead of Push

A push instead of pull is referred as JIT. The goal here is to attenuate the idle inventory in finished products and adding progress stages. By forecasting the demand and keeping only a minimum number of raw materials.

  • Pull instead of Push

Perfection may sound impossible but what you’ve got to know is that lean is an organizational culture that needs continuous efforts and nurture. The goal should be supply zero waste and deliver the simplest value to your customers.

Some Lean Techniques for Food Waste Control

  • The Kaizen Technique

It is endless improvement strategy that focuses on better ideas involving every aspect of a corporation.

  • The 5S System

Sort, Set, Shine, Standardize and Sustain may be a strategy to enhance the general function of a business. It improves house-keeping, organizing and cleanliness at the workplace. Safety in the 6th s which should be the top priority in a workplace.

  • Poka-yoke (Mistake Proofing)

Poka-yoke may be a method of avoiding manufacturing defects or automating detection of defects. Manually browsing through products to detect defects is extremely time consuming and laborious. Hence, implementing poka-yoke principles to the manufacturing line saves plenty of time and efforts.

  • Takt Time Technique

Takt time is that the rate of production required to match customer demands. It’s counted because the time between the beginning of production of one item and therefore the next.

  • Five Whys for Root Cause Analysis (RCA)

In lean practice, ‘why‘ is being asked five times. Once you continue asking why, you get one step deeper into the matter whenever and ultimately reach the basic cause. This is often an approach for root cause analysis or finding the basic explanation root of the problem.

  • Plan-Do-Check-Act (PDAC) Technique

Simpler internal control principles and endless cycle intended to be repeated to enhance your process.

  • Plan: Draft an idea and process for achieving results.
  • Do: Small changes are done and data is collected to ascertain effectiveness.
  • Check: The collected data is checked with expected results to ascertain if it’s working.
  • Act: Remedial actions are taken to remove any inaccuracies, ineffective actions. The act step within the current cycle should totally eliminate the inaccuracies found for the subsequent cycle. Don’t forget to try to do root cause analysis for an efficient act implementation.
  • The D-M-A-I-C Technique
    • Define the project goal, issues, process schedule, improvement activity and customer (internal and external) requirements.
    • Measure process performance and customer requirement
    • Analyze the process to determine root causes of variation, quality goals and poor performance.
    • Improve process performance by addressing and eliminating the root causes and ideas to improve.
    • Control the improved process, future process performance, standard work and checklists 


Lean is about eliminating all types of wastes. There are specific principles, techniques, and tools designed to realize minimal waste which will be a permanent part of a business strategy and practice which will help any company or a person to extend business profits, better employee morale, increase customer satisfaction and better supplier relationship.


Anne Poirot. (2019). “How Better Procurement Solves Food Waste”. Retrieved from https://futureofwaste.makesense.org/how-better-procurement-solves-food-waste/ on 18/09/2020.

Brian Mcffadden. (2020). “Lean manufacturing in the food industry”. Retrieved from https://www.graphicproducts.com/articles/lean-manufacturing-in-the-food-industry/, accessed on 11/09/2020.

Laura Depta. (2018). “Global Food Waste and its Environmental impact”. Retrieved from https://en.reset.org/knowledge/global-food-waste-and-its-environmental-impact-09122018, accessed on 11/09/2020.

Mohammad Naeem, ADLSM (2019). “Lean Six Sigma Best Practices for Effective Supply Chain”. Retrieved from SIPMM: https://sipmm.edu.sg/lean-six-sigma-best-practices-effective-supply-chain/, accessed on 11/09/2020.

Prasad Ramesh. (2020). “Lean manufacturing:The ultimate guide”. Retrieved from https://erpnext.com/blog/manufacturing/lean-manufacturing on 16/09/2020.

Rever Team. (2019). “Addressing 7 Wastes Hurting Your Business Efficiency – As Defined by Lean” Retrieved from https://reverscore.com/7-wastes-of-lean/, accessed on 14/09/20

Serene Ke Quanling, DPSM (2020). “Key Considerations for Green Procurement Practices”Retrieved from SIPMM:  https://sipmm.edu.sg/key-considerations-green-procurement-practices/,accessed on 11/09/20

About the Author: Yvonne Ong Hwee Ping has substantive years of experience in the field of inventory management, and specifically in the Food & Beverage industry. She is a member of the Singapore Institute of Purchasing and Materials Management (SIPMM). Yvonne completed the Diploma in Procurement and Supply Management (DPSM) on September 2020 at SIPMM Institute.