5 Ways “Lean” Operations Can Save You Money

Few businesses are more efficient than the makers of automobiles. In the late 1980s, an MIT research team coined the phrase “lean manufacturing” to describe Toyota’s streamlined operations. Today, “lean” processes are being implemented beyond the factory floor to reduce excess at all sorts of industries.

When a company “goes lean,” it generally studies its daily workflow with the primary goal of identifying waste. Each resource is evaluated thoroughly to determine whether it’s absolutely necessary, and then superfluous items are eliminated.

While traditionally associated with large manufacturing plants, lean principles are now being put into practice at businesses of all sizes. These principles are inspiring small entrepreneurs in all industries to do a top-to-bottom review of current operations in order to find areas where processes can be streamlined.

Here are five criteria to evaluate as you implement lean practices in your workplace.

  1. Space: As the decade progresses, “cubicle farms” even in small offices are being traded in for wall-less offices that use every inch of space. Organization isn’t just suggested, it’s required: Employees are expected to keep every item in a designated place. If a conference area exists, make sure it’s occupied every possible hour of the business day — if not, convert it into more useful office space.
  2. Time: Those 30 minutes around the water cooler each morning are a distant memory with lean practices. Encourage your employees to be productive from the start to finish of each shift, minus applicable breaks. Offer your staff time-management tips and tricks for becoming more efficient.
  3. Materials: In lean manufacturing, if a piece of equipment on the assembly line isn’t being used less than eight hours a day, that piece of equipment should be retired. The same goes for the equipment in your office. If you have a printer on every desk and seven or eight copiers for 40 employees, evaluate how many you really need. A 12:1 printer ratio is recommended to cut down on electricity, upkeep, and paper and ink costs.
  4. Cleanliness: It can be hard to get employees to understand the importance of a clean work area. But cleanliness improves efficiency by allowing everyone to more easily access the information they need when they need it. According to the National Association of Professional Organizers [PDF], purging clutter is also good for morale: It improves people’s moods and energy levels.
  5. Workers: This is the hardest part of implementing lean processes, but it’s often necessary. If your business has idle staff, you’re losing money. By honestly evaluating the number of people you need to be productive, you can make unbiased decisions about your business. In some cases, this may require you to hire seasonal workers or to outsource some of your work.

Lean manufacturing involves evaluating every aspect of your business to ensure you’re maximizing your resources. If possible, consider bringing in an impartial consultant who can evaluate your operations without prejudice and suggest ways you can eliminate or reduce waste.

About Stephanie Faris

Stephanie is a freelance writer and young adult/middle grade novelist, who also works in information systems. Her first book, 30 Days of No Gossip, will be released by Simon and Schuster in spring 2014. She lives in Nashville with her husband.
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8 comments
Lean Training Courses
Lean Training Courses

These five criteria are enough make our office lean. This is a quite valuable in creating a sustainable business.

krishan01
krishan01

Professionals at CRH Commercial Cleaning Service Company use the highest quality of cleaning products to provide you a spotless and clean office.

Bikram ku das
Bikram ku das

Whenever a business “goes lean,” it generally studies it is daily workflow with the main objective of identifying waste. Any single resource is examined thoroughly to determine whether or not it’s absolutely needed, and then superfluous items are really decreased.

prembabu
prembabu

Systems integrators at ADB Consulting have experience in many techniques, including computer networking, enterprise application integration, business process management, and manual programming. They are also skilled at executing vertical, star, horizontal, and common data format integration methods.

soumyaranjandas
soumyaranjandas

I view lean as creative problem solving that helps eliminate waste and provide value to customers.

SupplyChainCowboy
SupplyChainCowboy

Lean practices are quite valuable in creating competitive and sustainable businesses. Its principals are definitely worth deeper study for anyone who wants to improve their company.

 

I view lean as creative problem solving that helps eliminate waste and provide value to customers. Anything that customers don’t pay for (anything you can’t list on an invoice) should be considered waste.

 

One power lean tool for small businesses is validated learning. Large manufacturers run many small experiments to see what tweaks improve their processes. Similarly, frequent experiments can save small businesses a large amount of wasted time and money by helping them quickly figure out what product or service will actually sell before investing all their capitol (and/or life savings) into a product that nobody will buy.

 

Finally, a determination to never stop improving, and motivating your employees to the same goal, will help your company’s long-term growth more than any specific lean tool. Harness your people’s minds and creativity, not just their sweat (although to be sure, there’s often a lot of that too).

 

Thanks for mentioning this issue – it’s a great one that I hope will be revisited often.

Brosix
Brosix

I think working from home for employees can help cut costs as well.

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