Friday, May 29, 2015

Waste Not, Want Not With Lean: Common Wastes in Your Office

Historically, when you think of Lean, manufacturing is most likely to immediately pop into your mind. But in recent years, following the success of Lean manufacturing on the shop floor, many office environments have begun realizing the same strategies can improve efficiency, reduce costs, and eliminate wastes. Implementation can be challenging if improperly executed, but when done correctly and with the right guidance, there are significant benefits to be realized in an office environment. To start the process, organizations must identify common causes of waste within the office and develop strategies to eliminate it. The following are some of the most common wastes found in office environments.

Unused Products & Over Production
Joked about on the NBC sitcom The Office and highlighted in the 1999 movie Office Space, unused products and over production is a major issue in many office environments. The act of producing more than what the consumer wants instead of providing what they need or actually paid for is a fast way to lose customers and contribute to the inefficiency of the office and includes:

  • Creating reports that no one reads or need
  • Sending informational emails to individuals to whom they provide no value
  • Making extra copies of materials “just in case”
  • Producing more to avoid future setups/work
  • Entering repetitive information on multiple documents

Being conscious of these types of activities and reducing or eliminating the work involved in creating them, is a great way to begin eliminating waste.

Underutilizing the Knowledge of Your Staff
Too often, staff in office environments fall into a robotic routine where they perform the same tasks each day. Their skills, abilities, and knowledge are not effectively or appropriately used because they are not known to management and others around them. Examples include:

  • Bypassing procedures to hire a new candidate
  • Not providing opportunities for professional development and growth
  • Lack of training
  • Limited authority and responsibility for basic tasks

Being aware and taking an inventory of the education, experience and knowledge of everyone in the office will not only improve the productivity of the office, but it will also help individuals feel more valued and engaged, allowing them to improve processes.

Wasted Motion
Wasted motion is a term commonly used in lean manufacturing strategies, but it applies to office situations as well. How many times a day do you find yourself walking to your next meeting or bolting to the printing room? If you are like most, quite a few. Wasted motion includes:

  • Looking for items without a defined place, both physically and electronically
  • Employees not working to a standard method
  • Poor work area layout
  • Meetings involving non-essential members of the team
  • Printing documents instead of 

Take a look at what is going on around you, identify the areas of confusion and ask the question, ‘How can this be done more efficiently’.

Wasted waiting refers to individuals and items being idle between operations when material, information, people or equipment is not ready. This includes:

  • Waiting on others to start a meeting
  • Waiting for approvals or signatures from peers
  • Delays in receiving information
  • Technology break-downs

Implementing Lean principles into your office provides great opportunity for growth and productivity and it all starts with eliminating waste. Address the causes of the waste and eliminate them.

MMTC’s Lean Office Champion Training is here to help you get started. Join us for Lean Office Champion Training, a 3-day course, on June 16, 2015. LEARN MORE

Since 1991, MMTC has assisted Michigan’s small and medium-sized businesses compete and grow. Through personalized services fitted to meet the needs of clients, we develop more effective business leaders, drive product and process innovation, promote company-wide operational excellence and foster creative strategies for business growth and greater profitability. Find us at

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