Process development in an office environment


When lean is mentioned, many think primarily of the development of production, logistic processes. Originally the main field of application of the methodology was really aimed at those fields: as from the point of view of the customer they are the ones where value-adding is performed.

„Because there are wastes everywhere...”


Important difference that the process' object is not a product but some data, a form, a file or a person (e.g. healthcare).
In this approach the administrative fields can be divided into two main groups:

  • administration works in the background, as a supporting activity (production, logistics companies); 
  • the administrative process is the main activity, the service itself is the „product” (banking sector, credit institutions, offices). 


Value Stream Mapping (VSM) and Analysing (VSA) can be used for both kind of process to discover waste. These kind of wastes might be a little different than those in a production process but the seven types of waste can be identified as well:

  • Scrap – errors, fails, inaccurancy
  • Inventory – papers, office supplies, office tools
  • Overproduction – double work, stacking, redundant copies, forms
  • Movement – movement
  • Transportation – delivery, transportation
  • Waiting – delay, searching, waiting
  • Unnecessary processing – approvals, information

Application of "lean office" is needed if you experience ...

  • Non-transparent administrative process(es)
  • Long lead times
  • Difficult monitoring, traceability
  • High „inventories” in the processes
  • Many overlaps between positions, activities
  • Information flow is not smooth

Achievable results:

Ido_penz_strat_sLead time: - 50–70%
Inventories (invoices, waybills, contracts): - 60–80%
Clear tasks, control points
A pull system based on the FIFO principle

Topics of administration process development

  • invoice handling process 
  • procurement process 
  • production planning
  • ordering raw material and segédanyag
  • recruitment process
  • training processes: needs assessment – registration – execution
  • controlling
  • bonus distribution system


Misconceptions, pitfalls:

An office environment is a much more sensitive area than production – the processes cannot be standardized to such depth, in such detail. In the application of other lean tools flexibility, adjustment to the characteristics of the given process and keeping in mind the basic principles are very important in every case – this is exponentially true for administrative processes! We must not forget the fundamental principle of lean thinking: define the value-added steps from the perspective of the customer!

Related lean tools:

Standard Work, 6S, VSA, Cell building, Pull


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