Is Lean in Office Different From Lean in Manufacturing?

lean in office

A Lean Office is just the application of Lean principles to the front end office processes. The renowned manufacturing companies have started to strike many similarities between their offices and manufacturing lines.

The concept of “lean office” is relatively new and still in its growing phase. Lean in an office cannot be compared with the manufacturing line as the office productivity is far less quantifiable. But as per the quality management trends 2018, both the niches have people and processes which result in output. And most importantly, they have some unrefined processes which become wasteful in near future.

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What is Lean in manufacturing?

Also known as lean production, lean manufacturing is a systematic approach followed within the manufacturing environment to eliminate the waste without hampering the productivity. The waste here also includes unevenness or overburden created in the workloads by the management. The thumb rule behind lean manufacturing is to include what adds ‘value’ by reducing everything which does not add the ‘value’ to the product or services. This philosophy was actually derived and influenced from Toyota Production System or TPS.

What exactly is a waste?

A thing/process is considered waste if it is not adding any value from a customer’s perspective.  Lean Enterprise research Center (LERC) found that around 60% of all the production activities in any traditional manufacturing   operation are tagged as waste i.e. they do not add any sort of value for the customer.

The assembly (production) line in the manufacturing environment keeps the ongoing processes at a pre-determined pace. The people handle the work themselves when it is assigned to them or else, the line stops. Office environment is quite different. In reality, there is no visible production line which in turn fosters sloppy work habits.  

“Let’s 5 S this workplace”

Talking about Lean in Office premises,   most of the Lean Six Sigma tools and techniques change in terms of benefits and applications. The main technique followed these days is  the ‘5S’ approach where S stands for five Japanese words which effectively aim for lean six sigma workplace optimization and waste reduction.

  1. Seiri (Sort): Sorting all the equipment and retaining those which are needed.
  2. Seiton (Set in Order): Arranging all the things in proper order so that they are fetched easily and quickly.
  3. Seiso (Shine): Keeping the workspace and workstation safe and clean.
  4. Seiketsu (Standardize): Standardizing the workplace so that the people get familiar with the layout.
  5. Sitsuke (Sustain): Regular auditing is done in order to keep them in an orderly way.  

These principles, when applied in a correct manner, will drastically transform the manufacturing as well as an office environment.  The Lean Six Sigma green belt and black belters would eventually save the poorly set and unorganized manufacturing environments, which may otherwise prove to be life-threatening.

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It, therefore, goes without saying that it’s an urgent need to 5S the workplace as well as data.

Yes! Organizing the e-data play a very important role in making the office lean and optimizing the workflow. A lot of time is consumed while searching for a file, template or ppt. The searching may take just a couple of minutes per item but when accumulated annually, they do matter a lot.

Lean in manufacturing refers to keeping the workplace clean and organized which helps in performing every activity efficiently.  It also calls for staff’s rigorous information assessment which helps them to analyze the difference between ‘waste’ and ‘value’.

Winding Up

Lean Six Sigma initiatives are concerned in developing value stream maps and making the business processes more efficient. But, if the people or the employees working for the organizations are not taught the importance of Lean, they would still remain inefficient and waste will not be reduced. Lean habits should be inculcated in the workers in such a way they work as efficiently as possible for all the business activities. 

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