You will never know how much waste is actually going on in an office until you sit down and take some stock. In a manufacturing environment, this is often easier to spot; raw materials not been used, piles of metal sheet and other parts sitting around can easily be seen. In an office, this isn’t so obvious, but very often there is waste in almost every area of your office activities; from laid down processes and procedures through office supplies to how we manage our time. Learning how to identify those areas of waste and knowing how to eliminate them is your key to moving towards a truly lean office.
Here are 6 areas of waste you can pay some attention to:
- Processes - Think about the number of signatures required to get an initiative approved and in place in your company. How long does the paperwork sit on someone's desk? Sometimes a bottleneck occurs which keeps things from moving forward. If this is the case, can a few signatures be removed from the layers presently required? Setting egos aside and putting the customer first will allow for processes to be streamlined.
- Customer orders - Once someone places an order with your company, how long do they wait until it's fulfilled and shipped? This represents another process that needs to be studied and evaluated on a regular basis to make sure that the customer's needs are being met.
- Paper - Paper represents one of the most common wastes in an office. Are you hanging on to items because you're not sure whether or not they need to be saved? Reviewing your company's retention policies will give you the freedom to either keep or throw the paper that surrounds you. Start today and start out small. Each day moving forward give yourself 10 minutes to open a drawer, remove 2" of papers/files and see how much can be released. You will probably be amazed at what can be released as well as the amount of drawer space you gain.
- Some years ago I was consulting with a senior level manager at a local hospital. She had 20 filing drawers in her small office. That's 4 five-drawer filing cabinets. After sorting and purging the contents, she was left with 5 drawers of records which she was required to keep. 15 drawers of papers were shredded and recycled. And once the three empty filing cabinets were removed, it looked like an entirely new office with enough space to add a small table and chairs.
- Office Supplies – Having too many office supplies isn't as easy to spot as you'd think. Sometimes people become mini "hoarders" in keeping their favourite pens and sticky notes tucked away. I confess. I love office supplies. And based on what I've observed in others' offices, I'm not alone. What if your employer declared a moratorium on the purchasing of supplies? Would you freak out? I know of a company who did just this. It took nearly six months for the employees to completely use up the supplies that were tucked into the recesses of the company. To avoid this Waste of Inventory, designate one person in each department to oversee the purchasing and maintenance of office supplies.
- Time - It's something we all have equal shares of yet sometimes we feel as if we're being shorted on our daily allotment of 24 hours. Identifying wasted time is hard to do because we don't always want to admit that we're wasteful in this area. At the office, do you spend too much time in meetings or being interrupted by others? How about the amount of time spent reading and processing emails? If you're checking email more than 3-4x a day, you've got room for improvement. Using a time log sheet or software will help you be more realistic in understanding where your time is being spent and see where adjustments need to be made.
Discovering wasteful areas in and around your office will hopefully motivate you to remove that waste and replace it with more efficient systems and processes.