Commonalities between Lean Office and Lean Manufacturing
- 95% of Lean
office definitions and teachings can be applied to both a Lean
Manufacturing and a Lean Office
environment without any modification,
IF (and this is the big stumbling block)...
IF Lean authors, teachers, and practitioners use terminology that does not assume that the thing being processed is a physical inventory item
- Lean management systems are the same
- The system for visual management is the same
(even though the specific visual controls vary greatly even within any given organization)
- The purposes of value stream management are the same:
- Depict processes in ways that make the deadly types of waste easy to see
- Monitor and continuously improve key success metrics
- Value stream
mapping symbols and concepts are the same for a bakery or a bank
(and you can easily add custom shapes to your Systems2win value stream map as needed)
- The process for value stream mapping is the same for home-builder, a
hotel, or a hospital
(See step-by-step instructions in the Help page on our free trial value stream mapping template)
- A back-office paper processing value stream is just as likely as a manufacturer to employ lean concepts such as kanbans, heijunka, jidoka, kaizen, and the other new words for process improvement that happen to be Japanese words because Henry Ford didn't think of them first. Many or most Lean teachings come from the Toyota Production System - which is why it is common for Lean practitioners to assume that the thing being processed is a physical inventory item (like a car). But it doesn't have to be. Literally 99% of Lean concepts apply to ANY industry.
Every lean application is an invention
Your process does not have to resemble an automotive assembly operaiton to benefit from lean transformation. Every lean application is an invention, on you derive from a small set of lean principles:
Understand value from the customer's perspective. Find the value stream that produces value. Focus on the processes in the value stream to identify and eliminate sources of waste from it. Strive to make the value stream responsive to your customers' demands. And keep repeating these steps.
~ David Mann, Creating a Lean Culture
Differences between Lean Office and Lean Manufacturing
- There is usually a lot more opportunity for continuous improvement in an
- Almost every manufacturing process has an engineer focused on improving the process.
Very few office processes have received that kind of attention.
- 25-60% of costs in a typical manufacturer come from back office processes - and 100% in some industries
- Most office people haven't even heard of many Lean principles - so there is a lot of low-hanging fruit
- Almost every manufacturing process has an engineer focused on improving the process.
- Almost every production environment has one person with ultimate responsibility for the safety, quality, delivery, and cost of "the thing being produced". There is rarely such a well-defined Change Agent in an office environment. Functional silos are the norm in an office environment. Even once people intellactually grasp the benefits of cross-functional value stream optimization - it is one thing to "get it" and another to "do it". Diligent long-term attention to lean management systems is even more important to overcome the recurring thought patterns of office workers that have spent their entire career in "departments" with well-defended boundaries.
- Wherever you see the word "inventory" - substitute the words "the thing
The thing being processed is often the flow of data (either paper or electronic) that is needed to provide a service.
Similarity: Information flow (depicted in the top half of a value stream) still refers to the information needed to trigger scheduling of the flow of the thing being processed (depicted in the lower half of the value stream) - even if the thing being processed is itself information.
- Having a lean system of visual controls is even more important in an office environment - because the progression of work is usually hidden inside of computers and papers and typically cannot be readily seen without the benefit of lean visual controls.
- While it is true that no matter what you deliver, there is only one
value stream per Product Family, it is not uncommon to have multiple value
stream maps - each focusing on different
segments of the value stream.
Lean Office often focuses on segments within the first and third areas found within every value stream, while Lean Manufacturing and Lean Healthcare focus on the center of the value stream
- Concept to Launch
- Raw Information and Materials to Finished Deliverable
- Order to Cash
- Office workers are not accustomed to the level of time-based accountability that is commonplace in production. And indeed, the current state of a typical office process is often at first difficult to apply time-based expectations vs. actuals - because the current state often encompasses complex loops and cycles and subprocesses that in a manufacturing world would be systematically identified as various forms of waste.
- When subjected to more careful scrutiny, many of the tasks that are initially believed to require peformance by a specialist can often be delegated to a well-trained and supervised employee with far lower educational requirements.
- Office environments need a more liberal definition of "value add". Many office processes do not perform a single step that an end customer would label as "value add" - so the traditional definition is not useful. Refer to the help in our cross functional flowchart for how to define value add codes that are useful and motivating in an office environment.
- The customer and the supplier are often one and the same. The supplier of the request paperwork is often the same customer that eventually gets served. So on a value stream map, some people like to use a single supplier/customer shape in the middle of the page - rather than a separate shape for a supplier and a customer (as illustrated in the Case Study below).
- Batch sizes in a office environment can be very similar to any other product - but it is even more common in a office environment for work to be scheduled in a fixed routine - for example "we process payroll every Friday, cut accounts payable checks on Thursdays, and send out customer invoices on Wednesdays". In situations like this - batch size is more related to time than to process volume - and it makes more sense to manually override lead time, rather than auto-calculating lead time. (At least until more lean load leveling might be implemented)
- The Demand Unit of Measure is sometimes less obvious. For example, the Demand UOM might be orders processed, or it might be line items processed, or the number of shipments...
- Buffer and safety resources are less likely to consist of inventory, and
more likely to include:
- Cross-training and departmental borrowing
- Pre-trained workers available as needed (seasonal, retirees...)
- Customers that agree (in advance) to accept delay to allow load leveling to non-peak periods
- Contingency plans
- Information often plays a much greater role.
The Information Systems row on your Value Stream Map is much more likely to be used in a Office environment - to count the number of IT systems used in a process, and set a goal of reducing time-wasting and mistake-causing redundant data entry.
- In manufacturing, responsibilities are well-defined, but it is a
challenge to get people to think.
In on office, everyone's job requires them to think, but it is a challenge to untangle shared responsibilities - thereby making the A3 concept of pull-based authority kanban democracy even more valuable in an office environment.
- 5S audit criteria can be worded differently from production 5S audit criteria.
The User Substitutions feature of the Systems2win 5S Checklist allows your diverse users to share a single template, simply clicking a button to switch between your own user-defined Office vs. Production 5S audit criteria.
Lean Office gotcha's
- Don't invent your own vocabulary.
Just because you need to substitute the words "the thing being processed" wherever you see the word "inventory" doesn't mean that it is a good idea to start inventing your own (non-Japanese) words for everything else you learn about Lean.
You will make it a LOT easier on your people if you teach them the same Lean definitions that are used in every Lean book that has ever been printed - instead of trying to "translate" for them by inventing your own vocabulary.
- Don't fall for the excuses.
Vocabulary is only the beginning of the "reasons that Lean won't work here" that office workers can be masters of inventing.
Just like any production environment, if you don't have an executive-level Change Agent who knows enough to see through excuses, and has enough political "juice" to make things happen, and is committed enough to use that juice to jolt people into action - then there is no reason to even start ANY process improvement project. Capable committed leadership is essential for ANY process improvement program - and (if possible) is even more essential for a Lean Office.
- Don't over-customize your templates too soon.
Just because these Excel templates are so easy to personalize doesn't mean you should. Use your Tool Matrix to choose the right tool.
Call us. Ask questions. We can help.
- Don't fall for the Common Pitfalls encountered by Lean newcomers.
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Lean Office Training
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Lean Office Case Study - Expense Reimbursement
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Suggested Readings for Lean Office