Getting Lean and Efficient

When many organisations are reviewing budgets and slashing costs, it can be a good time to get the whole organisation on a diet and make all the processes more lean and efficient.

When a recession hits, it's easy to simply reduce budgets by a fixed percentage and try to save money that way, but it's not the best way. This means even departments that are efficient will suffer the cuts. It's time to think more laterally and look at ways of making the processes across the entire organisation better, quicker and cheaper.

To some people this immediately means automate or outsource. Yet both of these options take time and money and in a recession both of these things are in short supply. How about getting the staff within the organisation to do it themselves? - They do know what is required and are in the position to do something about it, quickly and easily.

Lean manufacturing is a generic process management philosophy derived mostly from the Toyota Production System (TPS) and identified as "Lean" in the 1990s. It focuses on reduction of the original Toyota "seven wastes" in order to improve overall customer value. It is normally applied to manufactoring and production environments but has been successfully applied to clerical and service industries as well. Lean is basically about getting the right things to the right place, at the right time, in the right quantities, while minimising waste and being flexible and open to change.

The "seven wastes" are:

  • Transportation (moving products or paper unnecessarily)
  • Inventory (all components, work-in-progress and finished product - including funds in transit, paying bills earlier than necessary or not soon enough to obtain the discount)
  • Motion (people or equipment moving or walking more than is required to perform the processing)
  • Waiting (things in in-boxes waiting for the next action, or bottlenecks in the process)
  • Overproduction (production ahead of demand)
  • Over Processing (duplication, verifications, badly designed processes, systems or forms)
  • Defects (the effort involved in inspecting for and fixing defects)

    Most customers in financial services want prompt and efficient action from their service provider. Improving speed can reduce cost and improve customer service and it's not just a matter of doing things quicker or automating things. It's also doing the RIGHT things at the RIGHT time and the people who know what these are are usually the staff (with a little training and prompting from an expert or two).

    In many instances this kind of thinking can reduce the time required to complete a transaction by over 50% and improve productivity by 30%. In a recession, these are things worth doing!

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