When chasing waste out of a business using Lean methodology, we are looking for 8 wastes.
Unused Creativity – Transport – Inventory – Motion – Waiting – Over-Processing – Over-Production – Defects
It’s common knowledge that the implementation of Lean processes is as relevant to the office environment as it is to the factory or workshop environment. Elimination of wastes in an office or transactional process is as critical as it is to the operational factory or workshop environment. While the 8 wastes are identified using Lean principles, they are eliminated using Kaizen- the application of practical wisdom by teams to improve the flow and processes within a business.
If you are a manager or team leader, let’s talk briefly about eliminating waste in an office environment.
Ensure that you have given your team the ability to improve and come up with new ideas every day. Give them the strategy of the business or the department. Provide them with the tools and resources. Encourage small improvements that cost nothing but a little of everyone’s time. Then get out of their way and give them the freedom to provide ideas for improvement. Their ideas to improve are the ones that stick and work better, because they own them.
There is often not a lot of transport in the traditional sense in an office environment. However, if paper is being moved around the office, excess transport (as well as motion and inventory) is created. Think about going paperless.
Ensure your processes stipulate that people don’t let work build up excessively. One piece of work in progress at a time is ideal. Inventory can include unread email, unprocessed invoices, unsent quotes. Act decisively and get it done.
A quick face to face conversation with a follow-up email promotes engagement within the team. A great opportunity can be when having a process improvement discussion in front of your visual management board. Eliminate excessive back and forth email and you eliminate motion of information, this also helps with the below – waiting.
Be the manager that approves the information, documents or quotes as received. Don’t be the manager that sits on them all week, working on them in a batch, or delays them because you are away. Approve to Takt time. For example, if you require your team to quote $25,000 dollars worth of work per week, and you are accountable to review and approve each quote, then be targeting on average $5,000 per day to sign off on. Also, the above recommendations around motion apply here too. A long and excessive back-and-forth on email inevitably ends up with waiting time between each reply.
This is doing more than what the customer expects or demands. In a transactional process environment, your customer is often an internal part of the business. Always discuss with your internal and external customers what their requirements are in their office environment. Avoid over-processing, duplicating or re-keying information across multiple spreadsheets- doing more than what is needed. Find ways to automate your processes. Simple is always better if you and your customer have discussed and agreed on it.
Avoid printing large batches of forms- in fact, don’t print forms at all. Why produce something that could be electronic? Going paperless can prevent over-production.
Always seek to error proof your work in process. Create simple quality checks, electronic forms, and templates that are easily followed and filled in. Restrict unnecessary fields in software that doesn’t need to be filled in or inadvertently filled in. Have checklists that allow people to utilise systems consistently. Use dropdown boxes in spreadsheets where only certain answers or options are required. Create standard work to help onboard new employees and set the standards expected in relation to quality.
At the end of the day, if any of the first seven wastes are existing in any shape or form in your process, then you will more than likely create another in the form of defects, excessive inventory or waiting. They are all interconnected. Where there is one waste, it’s usually creating another. If you would like to know more, contact us here.