Lean manufacturing is a method that focuses on minimizing waste within manufacturing systems while simultaneously maximizing productivity. These strategies help your company save money and time. Capacity Magazine reports that lean manufacturing techniques have helped companies such as Toyota improve their overall performance and quality, reduce waste, minimize costs as well as increase productivity. The fundamental principles of lean manufacturing are eliminating waste, implementing a continuous improvement culture, respecting your human workforce, mistake-proofing your work, maintaining a level production rate and instituting “just-in-time” (JIT) production. All these things can easily be adapted to the workflow and office culture of your business to create greater efficiencies and improve the quality of your work. Check out how these lean manufacturing techniques can be adapted to your business:
- Reduce Waste – Minimizing waste is crucial for large manufacturers, as a small amount of waste in a single process can lead to significant costs. Therefore, it is imperative that all companies consider all of their processes to see where they are wasting time and resources. As per the lean manufacturing principles, waste is most likely to occur through transport, inventory, motion, waiting, over-processing, overproduction and defects. In an office environment, it would be more economical to invest in a multifunctional printer and copier that can scan your documents, route them or archive them electronically in conjunction with your workflow management software and document management system. If you have large amounts of documents to scan, then consider outsourcing the scanning tasks to professional document scanning companies.
- Develop a Continuous Improvement Culture – Lean manufacturing principles stimulate companies to continually examine their processes and work on ways to improve them. This means researching, purchasing and implementing new technological systems to help automate or facilitate your workflow through business process improvement or it means getting creative about how to simplify hiring and on-boarding processes to minimize disruption and cut training times. A continuous improvement culture concentrates on making incremental changes that will help your business in the long term. However, businesses don’t always set apart time for this type of ground-level innovation. An easy way to start is to set up a monthly meeting where your employees can submit ideas for improving processes and then decide which suggestions to focus on during that month or quarter.
- Respect Your Employees – This is one of the important aspects of lean manufacturing. Companies should ensure that the employees are not overworked, challenge them without demanding too much, help them understand company goals as well as activities and find ways to keep them satisfied with their jobs. These will help reduce errors and turnover. In fact, employee turnover is costlier than most employers realize. A study conducted by Employee Benefit News reports that employee turnover costs employers an average of $15,000 per employee or 33 percent of his or her annual salary. However, according to the study, 75 percent of turnover is avoidable. Engaging the workforce effectively and giving them a sense of ownership over their work, enables companies to achieve consistent performance and higher quality output.
- Ensure the work is mistake-proof – Lean manufacturing supports the creation of systems to ensure that the work is mistake-proof. It is possible to implement this method in your company by creating checks and balances that will catch and correct mistakes early. Firstly, identify where your company is prone to make mistakes and plan solutions that will catch them before they become too costly. The right in-house technology can also help reduce errors. For instance, a good multi-functional printer can be set up to perform tasks such as order scanning and proper routing using Optical Character Recognition (OCR) technology. This in turn reduces human error. If you are considering outsourcing scanning and imaging tasks to an experienced document scanning company, then make sure that they are equipped with advanced technology such as OCR and high-end software.
- Implement JIT production – Make sure that you don’t produce products too early and carry high inventory costs, when it comes to manufacturing. This is one of the important ways to reduce overhead and improve cash flow. JIT production gives importance to producing what you need quickly and efficiently according to demand. This is a useful principle in industries where demand is predictable and you can manage your workflow over the year. There are many ways this might work in a small business or office environment. Having a trained team of freelancers who are available to help you when you need to produce something or waiting to finish production on a product or report until it is needed but with pre-populated templates ready to go. This frees up your workforce and enables them to engage in more productive work.
- Level production – Lean manufacturers focus on producing the same number of widgets daily in order to create a level production schedule that anticipates demand but doesn’t overproduce. Small businesses struggle with seasonality issues. One key method to level production is to provide discounts, savings or longer payment terms to those clients who order in advance or during your slow season. By restructuring your company’s seasonal workflow, your employees will always be laboring at a reasonable rate rather than having to deal with extremely busy periods. This will also help reduce stress on employees during busier times, as your work will be better distributed over the course of the year.
Partnering with a good business process outsourcing company can help reduce cost and waste, improve employee satisfaction and distribute work more skillfully over the course of the year.