How to Adapt Lean Manufacturing For a Lean Office, Part 2

Home / Blog / How to Adapt Lean Manufacturing For a Lean Office, Part 2

by | Aug 11, 2022

by | Aug 11, 2022

“Lean Office” training can save Rhode Island manufacturers time and money. How can you get started adapting the Lean mindset for your administrative functions? Part 2 in a two-part series on Lean Office.

Getting started with a “Lean Office” mindset includes mapping the processes and applying the 5S principles — techniques and tools familiar to any Rhode Island manufacturer who has adopted Lean Manufacturing principles.

Breaking Down Tasks With Lean Office

There often are shared attributes in the information processed in manufacturing offices (multiple departments rely on the information), so there may not be the need to do value stream mapping as you would for a production line.

Breaking down an office task includes identifying:


How does the task get done? Who does what as it moves through the organization?

Promotional card for manufacturing info session on Lean Office training
Value-add vs. non-value-add.

With each touch point, what value is being added to the organization? Are there redundancies? Is all the information being used or can you eliminate touch points?


This could simply be the number of handoffs and touch points. Even if every touch point adds value, you still may be able to consolidate them.

Mapping the office functions may be done with a simple flow chart (who does what in a sequence), but it often is better to use swimlane mapping.

Think of a swimming pool with lanes being different departments or people in the office. You can easily map who does what as the document moves toward its finish line.

Swimlane mapping often reveals inefficiencies and unneeded touch points, which are easily seen if your map reveals the document itself frequently changes lanes as it moves through the office. Your process may be overly complex.

5S for the Manufacturing Office

And it wouldn’t be “lean” if we did not apply the 5S principles to the office:

  1. Sort: Separate the necessary from the unnecessary
  2. Simplify: Do away with everything that makes the work process complicated
  3. Shine: Clean and inspect the office area regularly
  4. Standardize: Establish strict guidelines for how the work is done and organized
  5. Sustain: Keep the office productivity on a certain level, and come up with new ways for improvement

Employee Involvement is Key

As is the case on the operational side, the key to a successful lean office is the work culture. The must-have list begins with having the right people in the room and buy-in from leadership.

On August 25, Polaris MEP Project Manager Nathan Bond will outline the keys to a lean office in an info session. These include:

  • Strong leadership that believes in the philosophy
  • Constant internal messaging
  • Making it part of the office’s DNA (how you do things)
  • Training
  • Showcasing the results and benefits achieved

One of the great ironies of office communications is that workplaces with fewer people often are among the least effective in communicating with each other. Few small manufacturers practice lean principles in their offices.

Polaris MEP Can Help Rhode Island Manufacturers with Lean Office Training

No matter the size of the manufacturing office, you must create trust, so people are empowered to solve problems and not be afraid to make mistakes.

Polaris MEP can help you implement a lean/continuous improvement approach in your office.

If you are eager to learn more, register for our August 25 info session on “Unlocking the Benefits of Lean Office.”

If you are ready to get started, schedule a  discovery call with Lean Guru Nathan Bonds today!


Polaris MEP is the Rhode Island Center for the MEP National NetworkTM, whose mission it is to strengthen and empower small and medium-sized manufacturing companies in the United States. This series of articles was originally published at

If you missed part 1 in this series, click here!

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