“Lean” is a systematic approach focused on identifying and eliminating non-value adding activities (waste in all forms when producing a product or delivering a service) through continuous improvement. It’s a way of thinking and a never ending journey that focuses on meeting the requirements of the customer (the right product, on time and defect free), respecting employees and their role in delivering value to the customer, and continuously improving the process.
For the past 40+ years, Lean has been applied to the factory floor and has proven to be one of the most effective strategies for improving operational productivity. The principles of Lean can also be applied to office / administrative processes in manufacturing, healthcare, software development, government and in other transactional and development office process environments and can yield the same kind of improvements experienced on the shop floor.
The need for improvement in office and/or administrative processes is clear. The challenge in office environments is “seeing” the process to then be able to identify and eliminate waste (non-value-added activities) and improve the flow of information (the product of administrative processes). Lean methods such as “Value Stream Mapping” and value-added flow analysis are applied to help “see” the wastes and “see” the flow, identifying the value-added and non-value added process steps.
Office / Administrative wastes can include:
- Waiting wastes and long lead times (95% of all lead time is typically non-value added activities)
- Queued up work in in-baskets and No “flow” of work (like inventory on a shop floor)
- Over processing, excess paperwork, redundant approvals
- Excess motion – inefficient work area design and layout
- Defects / mistakes / poor quality (incomplete or inaccurate information)
- Overly complex tracking systems
- Information overflow (studies show 50% incoming info of little / no value to knowledge workers)
- Poor handoffs
- Interruptions that fracture
- Communications barriers
- Underutilized people
Examples of administrative processes frequently realizing significant impacts include: quoting, customer service/order entry, new product definition and release, scheduling, marketing, human resources, finance, and regulatory compliance.
Typical Administrative Lean improvement outcomes:
- Reduced new product time to market from 18 months to under 6 months.
- Office lead time reduced from 10 days to 5 days.
- Billing cycle time reduced 20%.
VMEC has been on the leading edge of applying Lean in both transactional and development processes since 1996, with hands-on implementation and training experiences in government, healthcare, manufacturing back office processes, product development, higher education, energy, and other for-profit and not-for-profit service sectors. VMEC’s Administrative Lean program teaches Lean principles in a language familiar to administrative employees and in their own environment.