Non-Value Added (NVA) steps consume resources, but do nothing to add value to a product or process. Because value is defined by the customer, non-value added work does nothing to change the form, fit, or function of a product into something a customer is willing to pay for.
There is some debate over whether non-value added means the same as waste. The difference, if any, is subtle. The argument is often that some non-value added work is necessary, given the current working situation, but waste is generally considered to be something that should be eliminated right away. The problem is that the condition of ‘necessary’ is often based on assumptions that may not be valid. For example, transporting parts from a loading dock to a production area may be thought of as necessary, but that relies upon the assumptions that the work area has to be where it is, or that the truck cannot deliver to several parts of the building.
Another way to look at non-value added is whether a customer would be willing to pay for the work if it showed up on a bill. It would be hard to imagine a customer agreeing to pay the ‘searching for files’ fee on an invoice without a complaint.