Are You Overlooking A Lean Opportunity?

If you're like most production supervisors and managers, you're constantly looking for efficiency improvements on your shop floor. It's quite possible that you've embraced Lean manufacturing techniques for years, and know them inside and out. You understand the varying types of waste and have eliminated them to the best of your ability. However, you may be overlooking an area that's ripe for improvement in the application of Lean thinking.

Consider your IT department. With the evolution of technology, your IT department is probably one that has grown out of control. You can imagine how easily it occurs: Systems tend to be upgraded on a piecemeal basis – a few upgraded computers or systems in Department A this quarter while Department B waits until the next budget year. By the time the next budget year rolls around, technology has changed again, so Department A and Department B are now running disparate systems.

Another problematic area lies with your users. Even with something as simple as managing email, employees tend to develop their own best practices. Some are very efficient and organized, and others… well not so much. If you haven't done so, it's time to standardize how employees handle email since this necessary communication method can be a huge time drain. While everyone thinks they know how to use it effectively, you may realize a huge return on your investment by hiring a professional trainer and requiring your employees to participate and comply.

IT infrastructure is also an area that may have grown in fits and jerks over time. This is especially true if your company predates the information age. Computer use probably began in the accounting department and spread from there, finally reaching the shop floor and shipping dock. If that's the case, your IT infrastructure is probably not nearly as streamlined as it could be. As new systems were installed and wiring expanded, it may have been hopscotched from router to router, and if that's the case, information is not flowing as quickly and freely as it could. It may be time to assess where rewiring and infrastructure improvements can be improved. Even the fastest computer will be inefficient if it's not receiving the data it needs over your infrastructure as quickly as it needs it.

Integration is another key in running a Lean IT system. You must ensure that departments that need to collaborate with each other can do so easily and efficiently. Imagine a brick wall placed between the end of your production line and your shipping department. Of course that wouldn't make any sense at all. However, if, for example, your sales and accounting departments are communicating and working on different IT platforms, it's like a brick wall. In order to “lean up” your IT efforts, you have to eliminate the brick walls and integrate.

One of the best ways to determine where IT improvements can be made is to ask the people who use the technology day in and day out. Ask where the computing bottlenecks occur; ask about regular IT frustrations. Then apply the same approach that you would use on the production floor to eliminate those bottlenecks and speed up the process. You’ll probably discover that investments in leaning up your IT department will pay off… and pay off quickly.

At MPower, we understand the importance of calculating the ROI for all improvements and the critical nature of measurements. Contact us to learn more.