Purpose Urban logistics presents a series of challenges, as the interests of the different stakeholders are not always aligned. The aim of this research is to explore the potential of applying Lean principles to reduce waste in urban logistics. Design/methodology/approach As a structure for "going to gemba," the authors implemented the shadowing technique to better understand the perspective of companies distributing products in the city of Montevideo, Uruguay. Then, meetings were conducted to validate the observations by the people shadowed. Findings The results show that most of shipper's time is dedicated to waiting (59%), which is followed by driving (22%), and only a small section of time was dedicated to unloading and verification activities (19%). Although collaborative solutions are needed along with the different stakeholders, this research highlights how deploying Lean thinking can improve significantly urban logistics achieving up to 25% improvement in the number of stores served per shift. Practical implications From an academic point of view, this study emphasizes the importance of continue applying and evaluating the Lean practices into transportation contexts. From a company's perspective, the authors have presented a list of propositions that can be implemented for carriers in order to reduce waste and/or improve the efficiency of the urban transportation process. Originality/value Based on the literature review carried out, the subject study of Lean and its application to urban logistics remains mostly unexplored in the scientific literature.