Can you use lean manufacturing principles in administration.
If you own a business in today’s economy, you have most likely been hearing and reading how companies who implemented lean manufacturing and lean business methods are weathering the storm much better than many non-lean companies are. On the other hand, you may have already implemented lean principles into the manufacturing processes, and now you are looking for ways to do the same with the administrative side of your business. Either way, there are probably some key questions running through your mind. Here are four typical lean administration questions with answers:
1. Is it possible to use “lean principles “in non- manufacturing environments?
The quick answer to this question is “Yes”. Lean principles can be implemented in the non-manufacturing areas of a business. They are equally as effective as they are in a manufacturing environment. Lean is not, in any way, just for manufacturing processes. In fact, the main purpose for any business developing a lean business structure is to focus organizational resources on eliminating waste and integrating all business systems to increase value for the customer. The outcome is a streamlined business value stream and improvements in delivering service to the customers.
2. What is a lean administration?
If lean principles are simply being used to improve manufacturing processes it is sub-optimizing the business structure and will not resolve the bigger issues companies are facing in this economy. Every business is administered by paperwork such as engineering drawings, invoices, purchase orders, production orders, production scheduling, etc.. Therefore, developing an integrated lean business system to support the manufacturing processes will benefit any company. When an organization can create an environment that allows it to develop a lean business culture it will have the capability to transform itself into a lean business enterprise. This will create the potential for any business to improve its productivity and profitability over the long term.
3. Will a lean administration improve business processes?
Implementing a lean administration will improve the traditional methods and provide more useful, real time information that will allow a business to be run more effectively. This real time data will be more meaningful to both your management team and employees. It will clearly demonstrate how the company is performing in real time, and be able to highlight any systemic weaknesses or issues.
4. How do I implement a lean administration process into my business?
“A journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step” – Lao Tzu.
This quote is probably the most important guidance for anyone seeking to implement lean principles into their company. It cannot be done as a single event it will take a series of small incremental improvements over time. Many companies gain the knowledge to implement lean principles by reading a book, going to a seminar, or bringing in a lean consultant to mentor them. However, implementing lean requires a cultural change in order to sustain the new methods over the long term. The reason for this is because the most effective lean improvements are as a consequence of employees being allowed to go through a learning process which allows them to integrate the new ideas into their mental, emotional and physical environments. The easy part is applying a lean principle to improve an administrative process. However, the difficult part is sustaining any improvements over the long term.
Therefore, it’s important to develop an implementation strategy to help focus the people and the processes.
Here is an example of a simple lean administration plan:
1. Create a project timeline with details of milestones, goals, etc.
2. Implement a 5s system to help organize the office working areas.
3. Use visual management techniques to help archive and retrieve documents and equipment.
4. Relocate and/or redesign the office space to improve workflow to support other functions.
5. Balance the workload at each workstation (desk).
6. Develop goals and targets to let everyone know what is expected of them on a daily basis.
7. Every morning hold a 15 minute team meeting to discuss issues and successes from the prior day.
Lean Office Procedures will deliver proven results that everyone in the company will be able to see, and it will create higher levels of employee and customer satisfaction, and improve business confidence. Implementing a lean administration may be the missing step that is needed before your business can be transformed into a lean enterprise!