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Lean Thinking for the Office

Locher, Drew
6/29/2011

Unfortunately, attempts to apply lean principles in service organizations or to administrative processes in manufacturing companies often fall short of complete success. Key reasons for these shortcomings is that office work has more variability than factory work. However, the cause of the variability is often how the company organizes itself to process information. In many printing companies, the information process consumes the largest amount of lead time, which a printer typically addresses through prepress. But the lengthy lead times in the prepress process are related to the many hand-offs and queues that exist. To minimize the delays, printers make significant investments in direct-to-plate or direct-to-press technologies. However, as Drew Locher, a Lean Enterprise Institute faculty member notes in this story, there are non-technology solutions available by using lean techniques to reorganize into cross-functional cells where communication is more direct. (Published by Georgia Printer, July 2008.)