Lean Where?

by Joy Finnegan, Editor in Chief

Lean, agile, kaizen, theory of constraints, six sigma, equipment effectiveness, interval control. All of these theories and process improvement tools have been in use for many years. The lean movement has been a longstanding effort in manufacturing and production in many industries, including aviation and MRO.

Improvements to productivity, reducing bottlenecks and increasing profitability are the hoped for results of implementing any of these programs in a manufacturing environment. I’m sure you have all seen many a story about companies that have had those successes.

I can hear you now, “Tell me something I don’t know!” You are right. But, lean can also be implemented in areas not traditionally associated with using it. And in this issue, on page 22, we take a look at implementing lean in the office.

We spoke to lean expert, Bill Peterson, a lecturer at the business school of the University of Tennessee and a consultant specializing in the application of Lean to MRO business processes about how MROs can implement lean in the office environment and make it work to improve work flow and ultimately, profitability.

Paperwork is a necessary evil in our business. Documentation, regulations, billing, registrations, procurement, training, inspections, the FAA and more all require copious amounts of paperwork. Just take one of those areas, billing, and think how leaning the steps needed to get a bill out to a client could help.

In many environments a common complaint about implementing lean to improve processes is that the work they are doing is highly variable and therefore what is coming next is never known. At least in a production line the next steps can be outlined with certainty – first step, second step, etc. On the hangar floor these things can be defined clearly as well – by looking at task cards. But in the office, these steps can be much less tangible. There are, no doubt, some steps in place but perhaps there are too many. Perhaps the steps were not well thought out or designed years ago prior to the implementation of technology in the office. Continual examination of all procedures, even in the office, can make a significant impact on a company’s bottom line.

However, it isn’t always as easy as it may seem to implement new processes. “The application of any tool must be done in the context of the overall business process re-design in order to realize the full benefits,” according to Lean.org, with regards to the pitfalls that can be encountered.

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