Whatever activity you or your business undertakes, a large proportion of your business processes will create waste. Waste is defined as anything which does not add value to your product as it proceeds through its’ production, this applies whether your process is office based or in a warehouse or manufacturing environment.

An essential part of implementing Lean principles in an Office environment is acquiring the ability to recognise and reduce as much waste as possible within a process. Think about the simple process of invoicing customers and then think of how much waste can be identified if you started emailing all invoices instead of posting or faxing them. You would remove the need for the paper to print on, the ink to print it, the envelope to send it, The postage stamp to pay for the sending, the man hours to complete the invoice run and replace it all with just a few button clicks. Remember that waste can occur in any business process, whether it is a manufacturing or administration environment.

The return on investment in identifying the 7 wastes within any organisation can be significant.

Even though the 7 wastes were designed for manufacturing environments they apply in the office equally well:

• Transport – for example consider the movement of paperwork between employees. Minimize the amount of movement by arranging processes by person and keep things electronic whenever possible.
• Inventory – Too little inventory can lose sales, too much inventory can hide problems. Aim for a “Just in Time” (JIT) stock by maximising your Lean Office techniques to report on sales par levels and then base any stock re-order levels on correct and up to date information.
• Motion – Remove unnecessary motion from the office operations and improve the flow of the workplace. For example – conduct spaghetti diagram reviews – where do you place your office machinery – where do your workers move – optimize where possible
• Waiting – Minimise the customer waiting time and maximise “value add” time. Aim for a smooth flow with Lean Office Principles. For example consider again the invoice process – does your process have excess lead time as your documents wait for authorization?
• Overproduction – An obvious waste, always aim to meet exactly what the customer expects, just in time, to the correct quality standard. A common example is multiple versions of the same document – one to be posted, one for file, one for accounts etc – can this be minimized?
• Over Processing – Within an office environment, identify unnecessary steps within a process and ensure that basic administration tasks are not inefficient
• Defects – Reducing the number of processing mistakes will not only increase customer satisfaction but will also reduce picking errors and customer returns. There is no reason to have any processing errors.

Everything mentioned above is an unprofitable action which is the biggest threat to business success and viability, However it can be remedied by careful implementation of Lean Office Principles and Techniques.

Over recent years, many changes have driven organisations big and small to utilize lean in their organization – following the success in manufacturing many organizations have adopted the same principles in their office and administration areas – It is worth remembering that every process within your business has 2 options it can either create profit or it can create waste, I know which one I prefer.

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