The Lean Office

In previous posts we have addressed lean production applied in companies, especially in agribusiness, logistics, a general hospital and a poultry slaughterhouse.

We return now to the topic to deal with lean production, applied to an office. The method is called “The LeanOffice.”

The reason for applying lean in offices, as in industry and agribusiness, is to reduce waste. It is appropriate for an office in an industry, a hospital, on a construction site, a rural property, or any other place where information is handled, be it printed, digital, oral or graphic.

Lean, in a business context, is a philosophy that helps companies to add value for customers more effectively by eliminating waste, thus performing the same processes more efficiently.

The Lean Office methodology seeks to improve the services provided and, consequently, the overarching business focussed on eliminating all waste in business processes. The main objectives of understanding processes better and improving profit are achieved using the resources that the company already has. Although the concept of a Lean Officeis applied mainly in companies in the industrial sector, it is also used in companies in the service sector.

A question that invariably arises when implementing Lean Office is whether lean tools in manufacturing can be used. One that can is the Value Stream Map (the subject of a previous post titled “Using the Value Stream Map in Improving the Performance of Production Processes” from January 2018).

To deploy Lean Office, you can start by drawing up a Value Stream Map (VSM), which can be done in six steps:

Step 1 – Form a Lean team and empower your components

Before conducting a Lean event, preparations must be made, and a team must be formed. Introduce to office managers typical cases of how lean is successfully implemented in a manufacturing environment. Go into detail about the implementation plan to convince managers that it is economically viable. The selection of team members will depend on the purpose of this event or the department in which it’s implemented, because it usually will introduce a bottleneck. The basic rule for selecting participants is to identify the main processes related to the event and separate them into individual processes. Then, choose who will lead each process related to the event, the point person tho whom necessary information is given. In addition, the training of team members is critical to establishing a common language.

Step 2 – Select a service family and apply the Value Stream Map

Next, it is important to identify and focus on a single service family at the end of the customer value stream. You should map only activities that are relevant to this service, as selected by the team leader. Trying to draw everything can make the VSM unnecessarily complex and unenlightening. Services involving similar customers and similar vendor inputs should be put together as a target service family and designed as a single VSM. This makes the VSM easier to visualize and understand.

Step 3 – Draw the current state map

A map of the current state of the value stream helps teams understand the current flow of materials and information. There are several tips for drawing the current state map. The first is that the map should be drawn in pencil; hand-colored design can be done without delay and helps team members focus on the flow, rather than how to use a chosen software. The second is to collect information from the current state while walking the path of the material and the flow of information. Remember that mapping cannot be done in a conference room; team members should go in person and understand how each task is accomplished. In addition, process leaders can provide information to team members in as much detail as possible. The third recommendation is that team members should start at the customer’s end and work towards the service provider end, as services should be guided from the customer’s perspective, i.e., by their need/desire.

Step 4 – Use brainstorming to develop the map of the future state

By brainstorming, design the future state of the process as a chain of processes, in which individual processes are connected to their internal and external customers, streamlined so that each process produces only what the client needs and at the time it is needed.

Step 5 – Draw up an Action Plan to achieve the future stage of the VSM

The future VSM presents the idealized state for companies. It is essential to plan to achieve the idealized future state; otherwise, the future VSM will be useless. An annual value stream plan must be developed. A value stream plan includes the implementation plan with the transition from the current state to the proposed future state. This plan consists of various steps in office processes, such as research and development, finance and customer service among others.

Step 6 – Hold continuous improvement events to identify and eliminate waste

Kaizen is a Japanese word meaning “continuous improvement.” In the office environment, Kaizen focuses primarily on improving a process through the efforts of process leaders, using their knowledge and experience.

Does that make sense?

To delve into the topic, I recommend reading the book Lean Office, by Greef, A.C., Freitas M.C. D., and F.B. Romanel (Atlas Publishing House).

Until the next MANAGEMENT TIPS!

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