Lean Thinking Doesn’t Have To Stop At The Shop Floor

Manufacturers are always trying to improve efficiency and productivity, while at the same time reducing waste in any way they can. Usually, an in-depth look into their operations stops at the factory floor. However, there could be another area where waste is eating away at their bottom line, the office.

Administrative services are a large part of a manufacturing operation, but so few make an attempt to implement lean ideology into this side of the business. This could be costing manufacturers big time.

“60-80% of all costs related to completing a customer’s order are administrative based” (http://bit.ly/1nIGHMc)

If a company has already made the effort to ensure they have a lean shop floor, the next step isn’t to sit back and check the data. The next step should be to look at where else lean thinking could help the manufacturer save. In this case, we will be looking to improve the efficiency of the manufacturing office.

  1. Find The Bottlenecks

An order that sits isn’t making the company money. Find out where inefficiencies are plaguing an office and begin to take a close look at all processes involved from design to shipping. Having a complete understanding of all the shortcomings will be the first step to ensure a manufacturing facility is truly as lean as possible. Whenever there is an issue with a particular process, make sure the employees facing the obstacle make note of it. This can also be a great way to crowd-source for solutions.

Having employees contribute to the solution will give them more incentive to look for inefficiencies. People don’t want to work with slow and outdated systems, and the people who have to work with them each day might already have an idea how to solve the problem. A complete understanding of where the inefficiencies lie will be the first step to creating a truly lean manufacturing operation. After realizing where issues present themselves, asking for suggestions from the employees that face these challenges each day will prove to be a fantastic way to come up with lean solutions.

  1. Software

New software is being released for manufacturers nearly every day. Not all of these systems might be the best choice for a particular manufacturing operation. Paper-based systems are slow and outdated and could contribute to costly mistakes. A new software solution may be the key to helping a manufacturer create a streamlined and efficient administrative process. After gaining a complete understanding of where the issues are in a current system, choose the software that best address these issues. Investing in software that has too many tools could end up costing more money and these tools may never be used. This is why it is so important to understand exactly where bottlenecks occur. Furthermore, it can lengthen the learning curve and it is possible employees may return back to the outdated system.

  1. Training

New processes can cause confusion, especially if everyone isn’t on the same page. It will be vital for the manufacturers success to have all employees trained and comfortable with using the new lean systems. Without proper training an employee can lose trust in new software if user errors slow down progress. The point of new software is to create the most efficient office possible and if employees are not trained properly, the new system will end up going to waste. It is important to remember that no matter how much training employees receive, there will be a learning curve. This can have an impact on the initial productivity of the office, but with persistence and a clear goal in mind, a manufacturer will be able to overcome the learning curve and begin running their entire business more efficiently than ever before.

  1. Follow Up

Once the new Lean office is set up, it is important to keep tabs on how things are running. A lean initiative is never truly completed. The purpose of lean is to have efficient processes put in place and always be striving to continually improve these systems. Data needs to be tracked carefully to look for any other areas where the office can become more efficient and address any issues that persist. If issues are still slowing down productivity, a creative solution might be needed to improve the new lean system. Creating an environment where suggestions are freely accepted can greatly increase the chances of a lean office becoming as efficient as possible.

There are many ways a manufacturer can look at creating a lean business. However, many don’t look past the shop floor. To really ensure you have the most efficient manufacturing facility possible, it takes more than creating productive manufacturing processes. Inefficiencies in the administrative office can be eating away at the manufacturers bottom line. A lean approach could help create a well-rounded and efficient manufacturing business.

Sources:

http://www.mbtmag.com/article/2016/02/beyond-shop-floor-%E2%80%94-three-ways-create-lean-back-office

https://mfgtalkradio.com/lean-manufacturing-reducing-waste-and-saving-money/