What Are Lean Office Practices?
Many business owners who continue to struggle in today’s economy have probably not heard about the successful companies who have avoided the same fate. What did they do that was so different? They took the time to learn how to implement lean principles to improve their business practices and service to all of their customers. They have achieved improvements in employee morale, business performance and profits. Of course, many business owners only implement lean principles on the shop floor and in doing so miss an incredible opportunity to transform their entire business.
What should they be doing instead? Well, many companies are realizing that lean principles are not just limited to use on the shop floor, they are now looking at using these same ideas to improve their administrative processes. Every manufacturing process requires paperwork (such as a customer order or production traveler) to schedule the manufacturing processes. For example, shop floor employees can make the products in hours, but it often takes days or weeks to generate the documentation to initiate the manufacturing process. How to take the next step towards improving this situation leaves business owners with many questions and few answers.
Next, here are some questions and answers. Remember, these answers are personal opinions, so please use your own discretion before using the information.
1. Is it possible to implement a office system into a small company?
Lean is not, nor has it ever been exclusive to large companies. Waste exists inside every business, no matter what their field of expertise or size of the company. Many administrative activities such as, engineering approvals, invoicing, order processing, purchasing and human relations can be improved using lean principles. A lean office system will deliver real results that everyone will be able to see. It will improve employee morale, job satisfaction and customer confidence. It is easy to apply lean principles into any business environment. A business owner requires is a sense of urgency and the commitment to do it.
2. Is there a standardized system for a lean business office?
There is no actual standardized model or system for a lean business office. There are companies who have successfully created their own lean administrative systems based on their own situational needs. If it were possible to obtain the implementation procedures from these companies, their office designs would help other organizations to benchmark their own processes. Some authors use case studies of companies who documented their lean office implementation process. These books can be a great source of information and ideas to get someone started.
3. What does a lean office actually look like?
Well, it depends on your business needs. It would be easy to recognize a lean office in comparison to a traditional office. It would be easy to recognize some of the more obvious lean techniques. A lean business office would be very organized because it would have implemented a 5S system. It would use “visual management” such as color-coding to allow the documents to be easily archived and retrieved as needed. Files would be located to eliminate or minimize the amount of walking by office employees. The workload is balanced and flowing throughout the office and paperwork piles would be nonexistent.
It will take some trial and error to develop the ideal lean office system. However, implementing a lean administrative process might be necessary to take your business to the next level!