Lean in the Office

For this week’s blog, we are going to talk a little bit about getting lean. And no, we aren’t going to suggest a new diet plan or fitness routine. We are referring to your office! SVAM recently attended a Lunch & Learn hosted by the Manufacturing Technology Center that focused on going beyond the plant floor with “Lean Thinking.” When there is a physical product being produced, it isn’t too difficult to see where the issues are in its production. Finding these issues become much more problematic in an office setting where the streamline isn’t obvious.  That is where the principles of lean thinking come into play; all of the lean principles used on the plant level in manufacturing can be used in the office as well.


In short, lean means creating more value for customers with fewer resources. A lean organization understands customer value and focuses its key processes to increase it. The ultimate goal is to provide perfect value to the customer through a perfect value creation process that has absolutely no waste.

To break it down a little bit:

  1. The fundamental objective of lean thinking is to create the most value while consuming the fewest resources.
  2. Define value from the customer’s perspective.
  3. Identify which process steps create value and which are only waste.
  4. Work to eliminate the root causes of the waste and allow for one-piece, continuous flow.


While the lean thinking principles remain the same when being applied to the office, a few things will be different.

  1. It is more difficult to identify the customer, the product, and customer value.
  2. The traditional value stream map is different than what you will find on the floor of a plant.
  3. Waste in administration is much harder to see.


  1. IDENTIFY VALUE STREAMS: “Wherever there is a product for a customer, there is a value stream.” A value stream is all of the steps required to complete a product and/or service from beginning to end.
  2. VALUE STREAM MANAGER: Every value stream needs a manager.  This person will be responsible for implementing lean value streams.
  3. VALUE STREAM MAPPING: Follow a product from beginning to end and then draw a visual of that. Then draw a future state map of the most productive value stream. The steps for drawing an accurate administrative current state value stream map includes:
    • Document customer information and need
    • Identify main processes (in order)
    • Select date attributes (this should take cost, speed, and quality into account)
    • Lead time/turnaround time
    • Typical batch size
    • %Complete and accurate information
    • Rework/revisions
    • Number of people involved
    • Downtime
  4. VALUE vs NON-VALUE ADDING PROCEDURES: Analyze office procedures within the current state map and determine which ones add value, which are necessary but are non-value adding, wasteful; then eliminate the ones that are just wasteful. Wasteful steps include:
    • Extra processing
    • Correction of any form
    • Waiting (batching)
    • Motion & Transportation
    • Overproducing
    • Underutilized people


  1. Quality at the Source: People must be certain that the product/information they are passing to the next work area is of acceptable quality.
  2. The 5 S’s of Organization:
    • Sort what is not needed
    • Set-in-order what must be kept
    • Shine everything that remains
    • Standardize the first three S’s
    • Sustain these habits
  3. People Involvement:
    • Work in teams
    • Cross train employees
    • Expand responsibilities and authority
  4. Cut out Batches
  5. Pull v. Push Systems:
    • Push system works off of a “when we get to it mentality”.
    • Pull system is a method of controlling the flow of resources based on established rules, and the actual status of the system at any time. This system eliminates waste of handling, storage expediting, and excess paperwork.
  6. Dependable Office Tools:
    • Software licenses
    • System downtime
    • System response time
    • Office equipment


Once these steps have been taken and lean office processes have been established it is important to make sure the value stream manager continues to implement these standards.  It is also a good idea to follow up regularly to ensure that the practices are still the most productive.   Customer needs change as do other variables that could impact the value streams later.


Have more questions about how you can implement Lean in your office? Contact Nelson Teed, Executive Director of the Manufacturing Technology Center and leader of this training: nteed@wcc.vccs.edu; (276) 223-4889



The Benefits of Employee Recognition


It’s safe to say that we all enjoy a good pat on the back every now and then.  When somebody tells us “good job” it makes us feel good and want to continue doing a good job. It’s safe to assume that when you show an employee recognition, it’s going to make them feel the same way.  But employee recognition goes much further than that.  It not only helps your employee to feel good about the work they have done, but it also has the potential to impact your entire company.  This week we asked ourselves, “how big of a difference does employee recognition really make in manufacturing?” To fully answer this question, we will engage various studies that discuss how recognition affects the individual being recognized, individuals working alongside of the person being recognized, and its overall impact on the company.



As individuals, we have certain needs and wants.  After the basic needs of food, clothing, and shelter have been met, many speculate that money tops the lists of wants.  However, research tells us that that assumption is wrong. What people really want is to feel important and appreciated.  According to Dale Carnegie’s Second Principle, the only way to get people to do what you want them to do is by giving them what they want.  Therefore, if you want your employees to continue to do a good job, or to work even harder than they already do, recognize them.  Other studies make the same argument, “everyone likes to be recognized, especially when this recognition is due to job performance. Recognition reinforces motivation in an individual and results in improved job performance and self- gratification on the part of the employee” (AWWA, 1974).


When it comes to teamwork, specifically in manufacturing, recognition of one employee impacts every employee on the team.  North Carolina State University recently held a study regarding the overall implications of employee recognition on team performance. They conducted three separate experiments; each experiment resulted in positive spillover for all around team performance when one employee from the team was shown recognition.  The largest experiment performed was held at a manufacturing facility and included 726 employees on 52 teams across 3 different departments. Employees from 26 teams were randomly awarded for outstanding performance.  Those 26 teams saw a team performance increase of over 25% while those who did not have a member recognized saw only a 10% increase of performance. Performances also increased by nearly 10% on an individual level among team members of an employee that had been recognized. (APA, 2016).


Not only does employee recognition impact individual work and team work, it also impacts the company as a whole.  One major effect that we see as a direct result of employee recognition is decreased turnover.  When employees feel appreciated, they are more likely to enjoy their work and stay at the company that provides them that fulfillment.  This alone saves companies quite a bit of money when considering an average sized company in the United States spends over a million dollars annually in training expenditures. (Training Industry Report, 2015). Employee recognition has also proven to increase employee attendance by over 28%, this saves the average company over $13,000 annually in sick leave costs, (BRT, 1992).

Research shows that showing employees gratitude and recognizing their efforts not only impacts that employee in a positive manner, but it also impacts employees around them as well as the entire company. Recognition causes employees to be happier and work harder which in turn saves companies money and helps them be more productive.  Remember to always recognize a job well done.


Be sure to show recognition for an outstanding woman at your company by nominating her for the 2017 Outstanding Woman in Manufacturing Award. Click here for the nomination form. Nominations are due by February 15th.