With the official start of summer and the first days of July, there is a smell in the air. The aroma of meat slowing roasting on the barbecue, the crisp scent of freshly cut grass, the strangely pleasant odor of sunscreen…

It’s the 4th of July again, and 86% of Americans are planning to celebrate it this year — 61% with a cookout, picnic or BBQ, and 40% with fireworks or a community celebration.

When it comes to Independence Day celebrations, there is always quite a bit of room for optimization.

This year, we’re offering some suggestions to improve the efficiency and success of your festivities by reducing the 8 wastes outlined by the Lean Manufacturing methodology.

Waiting: The 4th of July traffic is legendary. With over 47 millions of Americans planning to drive more than 50 miles to get to their destination, you can expect bumper-to-bumper traffic. And waiting in a suffocating car for hours is not how you want to spend the day.

You can reduce the amount of time you waste in traffic by leaving between 4am and 6am and coming back after 11pm. Better even, leave before workday traffic on the 3rd and come back on the 5th if you can.

Overproduction: Overproducing food is a problem with every major holiday. Overeating as well. Avoid wasting food and help your guests with their diet by serving mini-everything. Mini hot dogs (pigs in a blanket), mini burgers (sliders), mini mac and cheese bites, mini pies, mini skewers, mini … well, you get it! Another important thing to keep in mind when cooking for your party is the number of people who RSVPed.

Overprocessing: Talking about food, a common pitfall is to overprocess it. Don’t spend too much effort making a peach and shaved fennel salad with red pepper and lemon basil vinaigrette. The truth is, your guests will probably be happier with the classics: burgers, corn on the cob, potato salad, watermelon, apple pie… There’s a reason why 150M hot dogs are consumed every 4th of July!

Transport: More than $1B was spent on 4th of July beer in 2018! That’s a lot of bottles of beer to carry around. Reduce this transport waste by getting an outdoor fridge or a cooler for your 4th of July party. Not only will you reduce the back-and-forths between your kitchen fridge and your backyard, you will also ensure guests won’t be in your way in the kitchen.

Defects: The last thing anyone wants on 4th of July is to end up at the hospital. Yet 870 people go to the emergency room with firework-related injuries each 4th of July holiday. That’s an easy solve: reduce the chances of injuries by attending your city’s fireworks show. It will definitely be more impressive — and safer — than whatever you think you can pull off in your backyard.

Inventory: A great 4th of July party idea is to have festive accessories for your guests (you could even have props for an outdoor photo booth!). However, you don’t want to have more in stock than you need. And let’s be real, grandma won’t be wearing one of those silly Independence Day hairbands. Sit down with a list of your confirmed guests and count how many are likely to go for the festive gear.

Motion: 4th of July weekends can be very hot. You don’t want your guests moving around too much in the intense heat. Make sure you have plenty of outdoor seating and umbrellas in your backyard. Your want all of your guests to be cool and relaxed in patio chairs.

Unutilized talent: There are certainly a ton of talented cooks, party planners, bartenders and handymen in your neighborhood. Don’t let their talent go to waste. Reach out to your neighbors for help and inspiration. Better even, bring back the block party and involve your whole community in the festivities.

As you go through the final preparations for your 4th of July celebrations, keep the Lean Manufacturing principles in mind. The more you manage to reduce waste, the more money and time you will save — and the less worries you will have!


There are many tools and techniques within lean manufacturing to reduce and eliminate waste. (You can even apply these techniques to your everyday life.) Check out our guides to kaizen and gemba walks to learn more about some of these techniques.