Lean Concepts to Optimize your Work Environment
8 minutes, 40 seconds read
If you’re looking to optimize efficiency in the workplace, then there are a number of lean concepts that can help. Applying these principles to your production line, work processes, or way of thinking can have a profound impact on your productivity. Implementing lean ideas can eliminate waste, reduce cost, and improve the overall output of your organization. They enable you to deliver a higher quality product or service so that the overall value to the customer is improved. In this article, we explore several lean concepts that can help you to optimize your working environment.
Most people assume that the goal of lean is to drive continuous improvement through a manufacturing process or production system. But the reality is that people must come first if a workplace is to run smoothly and efficiently. This of course is sound practical advice for life in general. Lean concepts value people above processes so that everyone is encouraged to become their best selves. This helps people to achieve their full potential in the workplace and become the best employee they can be. They’re more likely to engage in active problem solving and give 100% to their role when they feel valued and respected.
A key component of this concept is respect for people. It’s something that needs to be shown to team members, customers, and third-party suppliers. One way of expressing respect is by showing that their opinion is valued. Asking questions to gain their perspective is an easy and effective way to implement this concept of lean. Being proactive in efforts to learn from your team and partners demonstrates that you value them. It also provides you with valuable insights into how the business is operating and where improvement efforts should focus. So, if you’re looking for ways to optimize your work environment or increase efficiency, then why not start by asking employees or customers for their ideas?
Value is one of the fundamental lean concepts that underpins everything else. Before attempting to streamline processes or reduce waste, it’s vital to understand the customer value that your organization is striving to deliver. It’s also important to ensure that this defined value is aligned with client needs. This is where the magic happens but unfortunately for many companies, this doesn’t always occur as readily as they’d like.
Value is defined as anything that a customer is willing to pay for. It’s the parts of a product or service that they really find useful and will gladly hand over money for. One of the keys to lean management is identifying what these are and then focusing all of your efforts on it. Strip away all of the superfluous activities that don’t contribute to this value as these are inherently wasteful.
This can often be a tricky task when first starting out. What a company sees as the valuable aspects of its offering can sometimes be different from those that the customers actually value. In order to get a good understanding, it can be helpful to seek out feedback from clients. Use online surveys, face-to-face interviews, or focus groups to learn more about the elements that drive value. Mapping the value stream can also help you identify which areas are adding value and which aren’t. This will enable you to streamline your activities so that you’re focused on these instead of the unnecessary parts.
Optimizing your work environment can also involve eliminating waste or wasteful activities. It’s one of the key lean manufacturing principles that increases efficiency and improves the bottom line. Reducing waste usually means that the usage of raw materials is decreased so that the associated costs also drop too. It’s a fantastic budget-saving activity that also benefits the environment and employee morale. There’s nothing worse than working hard on a product, pitch presentation, or anything else, only for it not to be fully utilized.
Elimination of waste isn’t just relevant to manufacturing companies. It’s an effective strategy to improve business productivity across the board, no matter which industry or department you work in. By considering a number of different sources of lean waste it’s possible to identify where you can make efficiency gains. These areas are usually categorized as downtime, overproduction, waiting, transport, inventory, movement, and extra processing. Looking at each of these basic concepts, in turn, can help businesses to see where they are creating waste and how best to reduce or eliminate it altogether.
Continuous improvement is one of the easiest lean concepts to grasp and implement. It involves adopting a philosophy of striving towards excellence on an on-going basis. Employees are encouraged to suggest improvement ideas and then own the execution of them. The idea is to get better and better over time by making incremental changes. These add up to a huge improvement when implemented on a consistent basis and can deliver an unrivaled competitive advantage.
Thinking of processes as a ‘work in progress’ is key to this idea. Instead of accepting things because ‘this is the way it’s always been done’, this concept encourages people to question the status quo. How can the process be improved? What steps do we need to take in order to implement it? How will we measure whether it’s been successful? By encouraging employees to take ownership of these projects, you can increase engagement as well as efficiency.
The PDCA checklist is a proven framework for implementing continuous improvement. The acronym stands for ‘plan do check act’ and is easy for employees to remember and implement:
- Plan – define your strategic goals and how you’ll achieve them.
- Do – implement the plan and make any changes required to ensure it works.
- Check – evaluate the results and identify opportunities for improvement.
- Act – make adjustments based on what’s found in the previous step.
By following this lean approach to projects or process improvements, your organization can create a culture of on-going change for the better.
The 5S Method
If you’re looking for lean concepts that will help optimize your work environment, then the 5S method is a really practical approach. It provides a step-by-step guide to organizing your space that can enable teams to work as efficiently as possible. Having a clutter-free environment is essential for things to run at their optimal pace but it’s also been shown to improve brain power too. So, by adopting this approach in your business, you can increase productivity on multiple levels.
The 5S concept stands for sort, straighten, shine, standardize, and sustain. Here’s a breakdown of the five steps involved:
- Sort – separate the items that are needed in an area from those that aren’t so that workers have all the essentials at their fingertips.
- Straighten – organize the items into the optimal arrangement so they’re easy to reach and always in the same location.
- Shine – give the workspace a thorough clean (including equipment and tools).
- Standardize – glean best practices from the team and then implement them within the workspace.
- Sustain – make efforts to maintain the approach and improve on it consistently.
By following this 5S method you can maintain an organized workspace that facilitates efficiency.
Once you’ve optimized the environment, you’ll be ready to implement a pull system. This is where products or services are created to order rather than ahead of time. There is no inventory built in advance based on sales forecasts or estimates – everything is made to meet customer demand. This results in a production line where efforts are focused solely on delivering true value and nothing is created to excess. It’s a zero-waste model of business that sky-rockets efficiency and profitability.
Applying Lean Concepts in Your Workplace
Incorporating these lean concepts into your business will help you optimize your work environment and improve productivity. They provide frameworks to build upon that have already been tested and proven across hundreds of industries. Whether you want to book the machine, achieve piece flow, or overhaul an entire business process, applying lean principles can help. They’ll support your continuous improvement efforts and enable your organization to become a highly efficient lean enterprise. If you’d like help on your journey towards lean perfection, then get in touch with one of our friendly team.
Your Lean Implementation Tool
Rever is all about sharing and reusing, doing and tracking. Continuous improvement becomes a hundred times easier with our innovative digital platform. Using Rever’s dashboard, you can monitor the performances of your teams, the summary of their impact, and easily identify the people making the biggest difference at your company.
Rever Cycle is our version of the PDCA methodology and guides your teams on the exact steps to follow to execute their own ideas. It allows them to capture the entire process, from identifying a problem to experimenting and implementing a solution. They can use it to capture the before and after with pictures, notes and drawings, making their ideas a reality in no time. The time of your team is too valuable to be wasted in handmade drawings and complex explanations.
At Rever, we believe that anybody can be a knowledge worker and thrive. What makes us human is the capacity to grow our intellect and will, and to use them for good. We observe, especially at work, that most people are asked to stop thinking and do as they are told. We want to change that. We enable people to achieve their full creative potential.
Are you interested in learning more about using Rever to implement lean concepts? Then get a demo today with one of our friendly lean management experts.
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