Lean for Business Processes
Lean for Business Processes is the term used to describe the elimination of costly waste in the office and administrative environment. It is also called Lean Front Office, Lean Administration, Lean for Support Functions.The same set of Lean tools used on the shop floor can be applied to the Business Processes. The principles of value identification, waste elimination, and problem solving – all the Lean principles – can be similarly applied to Business Processes.
Why implement Lean for Business Processes?
Eliminate excessive handoffs, returns, and duplicate work
Reduce documentation processing time
Improve end-to-end process flow and accuracy
Improve lead-time to customers
Integrate technology more effectively
Improve communication across departments and minimise conflicts
Free up people to do strategic and proactive work
Make individual and departmental responsibilities crystal clear
Create a more focused and profitable organisation
Finding the Hidden Waste in Business Processes
Lean Business Processes uses Lean techniques – like value stream mapping, 5S workplace organization and error-proofing, etc., – to attack the underlying causes of waste in office and support functions and eliminate them.
An example could involve an engineered, make-to-order product or service. It is advertised that it could be delivered in five weeks. Producing the product or work takes only one week. The other four weeks are tied up in planning, scheduling – all the front office activities.
Interest in Lean Front Office should be increasing as manufacturers look at the Lean Enterprise as a whole and how waste can be eliminated from all functions.
One of the problems in implementing the Lean principles is that waste in the front office is more difficult to see than on the shop floor. But it is in every process and transaction. While waste on the shop floor may be more obvious, waste in office and administrative processes can be more costly. When a large invoice is not collected, a sales proposal is delivered late, or a quote contains errors, these wastes translate into lost business and erode the bottom line. Millions of dollars can be at stake.
In Office Kaizen:
Transforming Office Operations into a Strategic Competitive Advantage, author William Lareau identifies four categories of surface wastes that contain 26 specific types of waste. These range from hand-offs and inaccuracy waste all the way to leadership waste – the lack of focus, structure and discipline among executives.
Creating Flawless Processes
As in a Lean Enterprise, creating a Lean Front Office is about identifying what is really of value in non-shop floor processes and building systems around them that flow continuously. But would a prefect process look like.
Value Stream Mapping (VSM)
VSM is an essential tool used to identify non-value added activities in office functions. Through spaghetti diagrams, process charting and other techniques, continual improvement teams review the current state value stream, identify the problem areas and create a future state and the necessary action plan to complete the transformation.
You may be interested to explore our full range of Lean Training programmes.