Implement Lean 5S in the Office
Lean principles are as applicable in a service industry or your administrative offices as they are in Manufacturing; in fact in some cases even more important. Applying lean thinking and lean tools to your office processes will often make greater savings in your lead times and other issues than you could ever hope to make on your production.
Consider most companies order processing; how many times have you observed a six weeks lead time being taken up with 5 weeks in the office and one week of panicked production? This is far from unusual unfortunately, so applying lean ideas and tools has got to be a way forward.
Just as in our production areas, it is often best to have a 5S Program for our office areas, the principles and ideas are just the same with the same goals; an organized, safe, clean, efficient and repeatable work flow. Work to prevent the wastes of Muda, Mura and Muri and eliminate those seven wastes within your office.
The Steps of 5S for the Lean Office
The same 5 steps of 5S that you applied in your manufacturing areas are applicable within your administrative processes. Just as within your production processes you must start with training and the team should be formed by mainly those people who work in the area in which you are conducting 5S.
5S Seiri for the office (Sort, Clearing, Classify)
Just as for your production processes with 5S Seiri for the office we are looking to remove all unnecessary clutter from your work space. This means looking through each and every cupboard, shelving unit, filing cabinet, under and behind desks and so forth. The team should look to remove any items that are not required on a day to day basis.
In this stage typically we end up removing old catalogs (I have found some over 20 years old – never opened), old samples, components, obsolete documents, obscure pieces of equipment that no one can identify or use and many other things.
Put what is obvious trash in the trash (or recycle) and put things that are not required but have a value into a quarantine area much as you would if you were in your production areas. Red tags are also useable for the removal of items that require outside help.
Your potted plants and other aesthetic items whilst maybe strictly surplus to requirements can be kept, but please try to keep that huge fig tree from interrupting the flow of documents from one area to the next.
5S Seiton for the office (Straighten, Simplify, Set in order, Configure)
In much the same way as 5S Seiton is implemented in the production areas we now need to organize all of the remaining items. I am not advocating the labeling and “foot printing” of your desk for your staplers location next to your pencil sharpener here as I have seen some people do, we should be considering the process flow of information and paperwork to ensure that it is efficient.
We need to look at what desks should be located where so that documents can be easily passed and the right people can work together. Is it efficient to have “departments” where all people with the same job function sit together or should we re-organize so that we have processes?
Consider the location of things like printers (often a cause of anxiety in many offices), does every desk have a small cheap printer or has the company invested in a top of the range super efficient color laser printer that sits in a printer room 200 yards from your desk? The principles of small machines apply just as much in the office as in the shop floor, the big super printer often means that you have to wait in the queue for your documents and have to walk across the office several times a day.
Think about the consumables for things like printers too, are the toner cartridges stored in a room in a separate building under lock and key, just in case someone decides to take them home for their super printer that they share with their spouse and 3 kids?
Look at things that you need in your workspace, have frequently accesses files neatly arranged on shelves on your desk in front of you where you can reach them quickly and easily. Less frequently accessed items on shelves that you can reach easily and those items that you rarely need can go into the filing cabinets in the storage area.
Color coding of files can help here also, you could color code by product lines, suppliers, or a host of other ways, but consider what would aid you the most to help you to immediately grab the right file without searching.
5S Seiso for the Office (Sweep, shine, Scrub, Clean and Check)
5S Seiso is as important in the office as in the production areas, a clean well organized office can also quickly show when things are going wrong. Either through a build up of documentation or the overflowing trash can beside the printer; anything out of the ordinary will be obvious and will point you in the direction of an opportunity to improve.
5S office videos
5S Seiketsu for the Office (Standardize, stabilize, Conformity)
Standardizing your office practices through 5S Seiketsu can give huge benefits with regard to efficiency and lead time reduction. Simple things such as color coding of files and document streams can make real gains.
Consider also looking fully at your process flow as in 5S Seiton; we need to look at producing standard operating procedures for these processes. Most companies have office instructions but these are more often than not organized in a departmental manner, not by the actual process such as translating a customer order to a production order. Real gains can be made if you map out the process in question and remove all of the wasteful steps; do you really need that many approvals, is the data that one department transfers to the next really all required, does it have to be on “that” form, there are a host of questions that will come to mind as you work through the process and document the best and most efficient way to complete the process.
5S Shitsuke for the office (Sustain, self discipline, custom and practice)
5S Shitsuke in the office is the same as in the production area, we should have 5S story boards to publicise the improvements made. We should have housekeeping audits and awards, but nost importantly everyone should be seen to be applying the principles of 5S from the CEO down.
5S in the office is as important, if not more so, than 5S in your production areas.
If you have any questions regarding the 5S Office or would like to share your views as to how to Implement the Lean Office, or if you have some success stories please feel free to leave a message below.