Continuous Flow in the Lean Office

Posted by on Dec 15, 2010 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

Continuous flow is the condition where a service progresses through the value stream without interruption.  In the office this means completing each process accurately and sequencing activities so they move in a flawless manner.  The processing of items happens in time with the demand from the customer.  The three principles of continuous flow are:  Produce only what is needed, just when it is needed, and in the exact amount needed.
The application of continuous flow in the office has the following benefits:
  • Substantial reduction in work in process inventory
  • Reduced paper handling, and number of people handling
  • Shorter lead times
  • Processing per customer demand
  • Process adjusts to flexible customer demand
  • Improved work distribution among process employees
  • Faster detection of problems
  • Less hassle and fatigue

In order to implement continuous flow in an administrative area, you need to take an overall view of the workflow instead of just looking at an individual’s duties.  This will require the use of additional customer demand tools such as takt time, pitch, and buffers, which I will discuss in future postings.
Continuous flow is not the natural way humans think.  We generally tend to organize things in batches, not flow.  It actually take less time, uses fewer resources, and ties up less money in inventory providing services when you operate from a continuous flow perspective.

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