Historically ‘lean’ has been associated with manufacturing. It was applied to the shop floor and to those processes that were involved with the creation of goods, transportation or storage of goods and admin practices were somehow exempt from being subject to Lean.
Yet this was a really shocking oversight, simply because administration procedures and practices can indeed be subject to Lean and if they are subjected to Lean thinking, costs can be brought down, waste eliminated and margins can be reduced, with overall profit margins increased.
There can be resistance to adopting Lean thinking within the office. Traditionally admin people have often had a penchant for trying to create systems and procedures that are perhaps over complicated, thereby ensuring that the company retains their positions, simply because no one understands how the processes work.
Lean Is not a radical approach for offices!!!
Using Lean in administration is not radical – all processes have inputs an activity and an output – lean is universally applicable!. It is not simply about applying Lean in certain parts of the company, for Lean to be truly effective, it has to be implemented to all aspects of the business. No one can be exempt, nor should they be exempt from Lean; it should apply to all. And administration practices are a classic example of just where Lean can and should be applied.
When thinking about the production process, it is really easy to concentrate on the ‘nuts and bolts’ of manufacturing. How much do items and materials cost? Where is there down time in the production process etc? Yet businesses should actually be thinking about how much their admin services cost and addressing the fact that administration costs will reduce profit margins and unless the admin services are as Lean as possible, there will be waste within the business.
Examples Of Where Lean Should Be Applied
Lean is important to all aspects of the office and the office procedures. Procurement is a key item where savings can be made and items can be purchased in a very cost effective and therefore Lean manner. But consider how the principles of Lean could actually transform the world of IT in the office. If all waste or down time that can be attributed to IT could be eliminated, then the office as a whole will be significantly more productive.
In essence there is no office procedure that will not benefit from having Lean principles applied to it.
Lean thinking demands that the office procedures are analysed and then they have to justify how they add value to the service or product that is being produced. Or they can be ‘non-value’ in terms of being necessary, but they do not add value. An example of this is a regulatory function such as filing Health and Safety records, that do not in themselves add any value to the process, but this task has to be done.
The analysis of the value and non-value will then weed out the activities that are simply wasteful. Wasteful activities are those that do not add value, but they are also not required in terms of meeting the statutory obligations of the business, so they can simply be eliminated.
These ‘wasteful’ activities can include over bureaucratic methods of procurement, inefficient filing practices or over reliance on paper for records etc, when this information could all be stored electronically; after all electronic storage of data requires very little space and therefore very little resources are used!
So if businesses or industries are looking at how Lean can be implemented within their working environment, admin and office procedures also need to be subject to Lean thinking. If only the manufacturing and production lines are revolutionised, there will still be waste in the office and support areas which will generate waste until they are radically transformed, following a Lean analysis.