Background about Lean. Simply put, Lean is the absence of fat. Whether you’re looking at your dinner plate or your desk at work, when you remove the unnecessary, the extra, the undesirables, you’re left with the things you need and want.
More than sixty years ago, Toyota introduced Lean Manufacturing, a management philosophy that allowed them to eliminate waste in the production of vehicles. They wanted to become competitive with the U.S. automobile market and considering Toyota is a household name it obviously worked.
Manufacturing firms around the world employ Lean Manufacturing practices today. As a result, businesses are beginning to implement Lean Office practices in order to cut down on waste, improve overall efficiency and become better organized. Even companies who don’t have a manufacturing element to their business are seeing the benefits of Lean Office techniques.
Two components commonly referred to in a Lean Office environment are: 7 Areas of Waste and 5S.
5S is comprised of the following five steps:
Sort – Sort out what is needed and what is not. When in doubt, move it out!
Instead of tackling your entire office, choose one area or zone of your workspace that needs to be organized. Are you out of leg room because of so much “stuff” underneath your desk? Is your filing cabinet bulging with too many papers? Or perhaps you haven’t seen the surface of your desk for some time because the piles of files, projects and other odds and ends are taking up too much space. It’s time to begin sorting and purging!
Decision making is extremely important in the Sort phase. As you come across items which you no longer need, you will need to decide what to do with them. Luckily you’ve got several options. For paper that can be released you no doubt will either recycle or shred it. But for pieces of equipment, gadgets, supplies or other items you could consider one of the following:
- List the item(s) in a company-wide email to see who else in the company might be able to use it. You would be surprised at how quickly “free” items get snatched up. Remember, one man’s junk is another man’s treasure!
- Online auctions
- Company-wide free garage sale – Get your entire department Sorting and then set out the extras in a designated area. Many times things no longer needed by one person can be put to use somewhere else within the company, thus saving money on buying new items.
- Archive in off-site storage