Want to Be an Efficiency Superhero? Here Are 3 LEAN Tools to Consider

September 1, 2014

3 lean tools for efficiency

We talk and use the term efficiency all the time:  When we interview, when we give performance appraisals, when we report to our managers.  Good news, you can continue referencing how you ‘improved efficiency’ at your job, but now you can back up your claim with results. Let’s not forget that efficiency is measurable: It’s the ratio of output to input. How much do you get out for what you put in?   Several methodologies exist to answer the question.  LEAN is a whole discipline dedicated to uncovering and eliminating waste in a process to develop and deliver a product or a service to a customer.

So how can you transform into an efficiency superhero?  You can explore some LEAN tools. Below, we picked three common challenges we all face and selected 3 LEAN tools you can use to tackle them:

1st Challenge:  

Customers keep calling. They are complaining that you take too long to deliver the product and that you charge too much. If you don’t change tack, you will lose these customers. 

Solution Tool 1:  Create a value stream of your process and discern between value-added activities, non-value-added activities, and value-enabling activities as they relate to customer value. An activity adds value if it meets these 3 criteria:

  • it is performed in a process for which the customer is willing to pay
  • it’s done right the first time
  • it transforms the product or service

An activity that is non-value-added is an activity that isn’t required but is implemented anyway and does not change the form, fit, or function of the product or service. Value-enabling activities don’t add direct value to the customer but are necessary, such as compliance activities to government regulations.

2nd Challenge:  

It takes you forever to process purchasing requests within your organization.  You end up taking too long, the expense reports pile up, and you end up paying huge chunks of money out at odd times during the month. 

Solution Tool 2: Start with a spaghetti diagram,  which will help you map the process steps and movement of a purchasing request from department to department until it is paid. It’s called a spaghetti diagram because once you start mapping your process, you will find that it is probably all tangled up like a bowl of spaghetti. With a spaghetti diagram, you will be able to identify the bottlenecks where waste festers in your processes, making them cumbersome and costly.  There are seven types of waste: Waste of defects, waste of overproduction, waste of over-processing, waste of conveyance, waste of inventory, waste of motion, and waste of waiting time.  Some or all of these types of waste may be holding your process back. There is only one way to find out! Map your process.

 3rd Challenge:

Working on your start-up has been an amazing ride. But your apartment/desk/screen is a mess!  You waste a lot of time looking for stuff: Folders, files, the napkin with the notes for your next pitch.  

Solution Tool 3: Apply the 5S! It’s a Japanese methodology to basically clean up and keep it that way! The 5S approach teaches you to sort, streamline, standardize, shine, and sustain your stuff either on your desk, the office, or online. With Sort, you will unclutter: You will get rid of items you no longer need; with Streamline, you will arrange all the stuff you just sorted in an easy to access way; with Shine, you will clean your workspace; with Standardize, you will set your standards of an orderly workspace; and with Sustain, you will learn to keep it that way!

Efficiency is not as easy as it sounds and results can be difficult to measure. The benefit of LEAN is that results are immediately visible and measurable, with process improvements punched in at 20%-50% overnight. So, challenges can be tackled after all, and you can become the efficiency superhero of your office.

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    […] added steps in a product or service process. We already discussed some key best practices in  “Want to Be an Efficiency Superhero.” In this article, we debunk 3 myths about […]

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