5 Reasons to Implement Lean in Higher Education
What began as a Toyota Production System initiative has now become a widespread principle that workplaces of all kinds across the world have embraced. Simply put, Lean is a systematic method for doing more with less—getting more value out of the time spent on a task and reducing waste. Implemented correctly, with institution-wide buy-in, Lean has the power to transform an organization.
Although the system has been widely adopted in manufacturing, adopting Lean as a philosophy has definite benefits for any process-heavy organization. In the last few years, health care systems across the country have begun to use the system to reduce cost and to improve patient care. Higher Education is somewhat new territory for the methodology, but the same kinds of lessons apply.
If you're looking for a way to increase efficiency and improve processes at your institution, here's a high level overview of the benefits of a college-wide Lean implementation.
1. Saves Time/Reduces Waste
Lean helps you save time by streamlining your processes. Removing as many of the "7 wastes" as possible from your processes will allow you to move your business processes closer to the ideal, most efficient state. The goal is to remove non-value added activities so that the maximum amount of time and effort can be spent making progress. Think about how many of the following seven wastes are present in your processes, and imagine the potential if you could eliminate just one:
Confusion: Is your admissions process as seamless as it could be? How about registration and advising?
Motion/Travel: How many offices do your students have to visit to accomplish a task?
Waiting: Do faculty office hours match up with student needs?
Processing: How many steps and hand-offs are involved in each of your business processes? How much of the work is manual?
Inventory: Are you maintaining just the right level of supplies to meet demand, or are you paying unnecessary warehousing costs?
Defects: Do your processes work perfectly every time or are there sometimes errors that affect the student experience?
Overproduction: Are you producing too many graduates in some areas, but not enough in others?
2. Organizes Classrooms, Storage, & Office Space
Have you ever cleaned up an area at the office only to find that it quickly returns to its initial state? 5S provides a system that allows one to easily clean, organize, standardize, and maintain any environment. What exactly is 5S? Well, 5S represents the five S’s (Sort, Straighten, Shine, Standardize, Sustain). You sort to get rid of unneeded items, straighten to organize, shine to clean, standardize to maintain, and sustain to create habits. When there is a place for everything, and everything is in its place, things are easier to find and track.
3. Improves Customer Service and the Student Experience
Any time processes are streamlined, the resulting process takes less time. Whether it means less time to register for a course, less time to become admitted to the college, or less time waiting in line, students appreciate an easy, seamless experience.
Lean implementation helps to standardize systems and processes. Standardized systems and processes mean that less falls through the cracks and quality is ensured.
5. Cost Avoidance
Lean helps avoid costs by eliminating unnecessary waste. Costs can be avoided by eliminating any of the seven wastes. Lean tools, like Spaghetti Diagrams and the A3 Report can help you determine which processes have waste built in and where the most improvement can be made. You will be surprised what you come up with!