A lean office is a term that refers to an office, administration or back office support operation which applies and makes use of the lean principles or lean manufacturing ideology to achieve smooth work processes and enhance the flow of information to achieve more efficient outcomes and productivity.
A common objective of implementing lean manufacturing ideology in any office is also to reduce costs and only function with the necessary resources to complete all tasks in an efficient manner.
The lean office usually avoids non value adding processes, unnecessary paperwork and waiting as well as work in process and the waste of resources. Unnecessary personnel in positions that add little value are usually eliminated due to not only their impact on cost but also on the overall productivity of the office. The ideology and methods to eliminate wasted resources and improve customer service are the same as in a production or manufacturing environment, but applied to an office and administration environment.
Making your office a Lean environment
What do you look for in your office to find opportunities to improve efficiencies boost productivity and reduce costs?
Check for the following:
- Location of the office: commercial office space can be costly to rent and will vary greatly on the location. Do you really need to be located in the centre of town or is a surrounding suburb have similar facilities available at a much cheaper price
- Size of the office: Does your office space have the necessary space or is there many empty desks and spaces with no continuous occupants? Some offices have many visitors that require a desk or an office space to conduct business or meetings. Excess office space should never be more than 15% of total floor space in large offices and no more than 25% for a smaller office space. This should allow enough room for visitors and new employees in the future depending on business needs.
- Layout of the office: Do walls and physical barriers, such as split offices on different floors; prevent smooth flow of work and communication between different departments. The layout of the office should have work stations and departments which constantly interact as close as possible with each other. Office equipment, supplies and employee amenities should be located in convenient locations close to work areas where they can easily be accessed.
- Frequently used amenities: this is a category that doesn't get much attention or thought but may have a large impact to the time employees are away from their desks. One of the most common of these amenities is the coffee machine. In most workplaces tea and coffee amenities are provided but the quality is usually very standard and minimal. Employees in these situations prefer to purchase their coffee or tea at nearby cafes. This requires them to leave their place of work, walk and wait for their beverages. This may valuable time away from employees every day or even several times a day.
This is why many high performance workplaces provide coffee machines which are capable of serving good quality beverages, some workplaces even provide snacks or a healthy breakfast selection of fruits, cereals and or breads. This is not only a benefit to employees but also yields greater productivity and less wasted time by employees going outside their immediate workplace.
Unnecessary red tape: In some large organizations processes and different functions require authorizations, approvals, and reviews. Some of these are unnecessary or become redundant as time goes by. It is important to review the procedures and authorizations which create backlog and bottlenecks of paperwork and holdups in processing work.
As can be seen in the areas discussed above, an office as well as any other value adding operation can be improved and made much more efficient with the application of lean manufacturing methods and ideology. Many organizations can save considerable costs in reviewing their offices in the areas outlined above or in other similar areas that may be specific to their industry or business.
More lean concepts and terms