Jan 27, 2007

Lean office? When, where and why?

Applications of lean are moving beyond manufacturing. Why? For one thing, services such as healthcare and insurance companies have been crying out for improvement and the principles of lean can deliver that. For another, it’s an ideal way for consultants ($$$) in a crowded market to differentiate and diversify. (Not that I have a problem with consultants…some of my best friends, etc.)

As editor of Lean Directions for the Society of Manufacturing Engineers, I pondered this to come up with a working philosophy and editorial scope for the newsletter. I decided a “lean office” topic is okay when it’s closely related to a manufacturing operation. And it’s not enough for a lean office effort to be made just anywhere in a manufacturing company. In what “office” should a lean transformation be attempted?

Well, duuuhh…if you are in manufacturing, look at the value stream. If you’ve wrung out a lot of the significant waste in your factory, Upstream or downstream? where are your biggest obstacles and constraints now? The sales and forecasting process? Purchasing of raw materials? Logistics? The state of lean among your customers or suppliers? Product design and manufacturability?

There’s no one answer. Your situation has its own next constraint. So work on fixing that one. Filter your lean knowledge and that of the rest of your workers to the office process owners where you need the most improvement. Be deliberate, not random.

Pix from US Dept of Interior, Bureau of Reclamation, sponsored by the US taxpayer.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Adding to the post. Lean must be used as a tool to improve where needed and this is not necessarily a manufacturing floor. Basically everything is a process and all process can be mapped with the idea a finding kaizen bursts. But even thou you find waste it doesn’t mean you need to address them immediately always start with the ones that impact your core business baseline metrics and strategies, that way you’ll be working lean.

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