How a Smart Coffee Lid Design Can Simplify and Reduce Inventory Waste


In search of a mid afternoon coffee fix on Friday afternoon I came across this cup lid and couldn't help but be impressed with the number of Lean features that make up the design.

The obvious feature is it's use of both pull-back tab and straw openings. This lid can be used for topping hot and cold beverages. Not so obvious, however, is the size of the lid and it's interaction with cups of various sizes for hot and cold beverages. The lid fits on 8oz, 12oz and 16oz cups.

While seemingly simple, this lid along with its associated cups, have enabled all sorts of opportunities to eliminate waste.

There is no need to have inventory of lids all with various sizes and purposes. There is no need to have multiple lids all available in different stacks at the beverage dispensing point, or to keep them organized. And perhaps the biggest impact from the customer's perspective, there is never any wasted time searching for the ‘right' lid.

I found this simple cup lid to be a fantastic example of the power that can be contained within lean product design. If only everything were so simple.

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Luke Van Dongen
Luke, an auto industry engineering veteran, blogged here from 2005 to 2006.


  1. The two bumps on either side can be used to denote the contents of the cup so that if you are carrying an extra to someone else you can set a signal for identification.

  2. Good example of standardization. Now what’s usually “un-lean” about a coffee shop is the poor flow for getting lids and milk/sugar, etc. How many times is the flow set up in the wrong order, or are things not clearly labeled? It seems obvious that if your customers are bumping into you and crossing paths multiple times that you would change the layout right? I guess many people don’t pay attention to waste!


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