TIPS: Standardizing, Look, Get Started, Lean Mindset, Employee Involvement, Engr Netw Helping You.
Lean Manufacturing Movement came out of a desire to reduce waste & inefficiencies + improve productivity in the operation. Many manufacturers have also benefited from the resulting continuous improvement mindset as engaged employees became empowered to change things for the better.
Benefits. Just as you assign a value to the benefit of things in the operation, you can do the same in the front office. Lean principles also apply to traditional scheduling functions, finance – even sales & marketing. Bringing Lean principles to your manufacturing office will save you time – and ultimately $$$ – by addressing these common issues:
- Non-value-added time spent on tasks
- Delays in communication
- Lack of proper information flow
Lean Office Mindset. There often is a huge wall that separates office functions from manufacturing operations. Each side may not understand what the other side does and how they do it. A Lean office mindset will help with transparency and breaking down that wall.
1. Benefits of a Lean operation begins with ”Standardizing”
The common belief has been that office work varies too much to be standardized. It is not a production line, the argument goes. Yet, it is the lack of standard office processes that often results in inconsistent information quality, which often requires extended time to address and correct. Applying Lean principles to an office will:
- Improve processing time & info transfers through reduction of steps and processes. (You might be surprised by how many unnecessary tasks or touch points exist in a typical office based on “how we do things.”)
- Provide greater control of information flow. It’s easier to tweak a systematic approach than a casual process.
- Lead to better + more responsive problem solving. Issues will emerge more quickly and be easier to identify.
2. What Does LEAN Look Like?
Every office function produces some documentation – the procurement department employees produce purchase orders; some areas produce an approval or a report. Let’s look at some examples of how Lean concepts can help reduce variability in office functions.
- Purchase orders. Let’s say your shop operates on a 30-day lead time from receiving an order to delivery. Are there set parameters for breaking down that lead time? Does it align with who needs the most time to fulfill the order? How soon are all stakeholders even made aware of the order?
- Scheduling. If a work schedule never holds up and someone downstream is frequently adjusting it, chances are the creation of the schedule is not a value-add process. The process may even create more work. Apply Lean principles as you would to solve an operational bottleneck or an inventory issue.
- Batch processing. This also applies to periodic or unpredictable processing of documents. This often is done for the convenience of one staff member who may not realize that they are batching and certainly is not aware of the negative impact it has on downstream processes.
- Data collection. Do you have set processes for the data? Many manufacturers have gaps in communications or wait until the end of the month or a set period before looking at the data. And that may be OK, but if this information is going to impact the supply chain, people need to know, and know promptly.
Many manufacturers understand the importance of how sales projections impact supplies, production staffing and delivery times. What other information should be treated with the same discipline?
3. How to get Started with a Lean Mindset in the Office
Implementing Lean in an office setting includes mapping the processes and applying the 5S principles (Sort, Set in Order, Shine, Standardize & Sustain). There often are shared attributes in the information, processed in manufacturing offices (multiple departments rely on this information), so there may not be the need to do Value stream mapping (material & info flow) as you would for a production line.Breaking down an office task includes identifying:
- Mapping. How does the task get done? Who does what as it moves through the organization? (aka Flow)
- Value-Added vs non-Value-added. With each point of operation, what value is being added to the organization? Are there redundancies? Is all the information being used or can you eliminate some steps?
- Measurables. This could simply be the number of transfers & operations. Even if every operation adds value, you still may be able to consolidate them.
Mapping the office functions may be done with a simple Flow chart (who does what in a sequence), but it often is better to use Swim-lane mapping. Think of a swimming pool with lanes being different departments or people in the office. You can easily map who does what as the info / document moves toward its finish line. Swim-lane mapping often reveals inefficiencies and unneeded operations, which are easily seen if your map reveals the document itself frequently changes lanes as it moves through the office. Your process may be overly complex. And it wouldn’t be “Lean” if we did not apply the 5S principles to the office:
- Sort: Separate the necessary from the unnecessary
- Simplify: Do away with everything that makes the work process complicated
- Shine: Clean & inspect the office area regularly
- Standardize: Establish strict guidelines for how the work is organized & done
- Sustain: Keep the office productivity on a certain level, and come up with new ways for improvement
4. Employee Involvement is Key
As is the case on the operational side, the key to a successful Lean office is the work culture. The must-have list begins with having the right people in the room and buy-in from leadership. Keys to a Lean office are:
- Strong leadership that believes in the Lean philosophy
- Constant internal messaging
- DNA Making it part of the office’s DNA (how you do things)
- Showcasing the results & benefits achieved to sell the Lean principles
One of the great ironies of office communications is that small businesses with fewer people often are among the least effective in communicating with each other. Few small manufacturers practice Lean principles in their offices. More need to try Lean – to get the benefits.
5. Engineering Network Can Help You
No matter the size of your manufacturing business, you must create trust, so people are empowered to solve problems and not be afraid to make mistakes. Engr Netw can help you implement a Lean / Continuous improvement approach in your Business thru the Implementation of ISO 9000 Quality Management Standard.
Call or Text: Peter/CXO 408-833-5900 or Email – EngrNetw@AOL.com
Comments: Do you know any other ways to Implement Lean Principles?
from MANEX 1/22 enhanced by Peter/CXO of Wiz4.biz also
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