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Lean Office: How to eliminate waste in administrative processes too?

31 March 2022
Article by Luiz Rodrigues,  consultant in Industrial Management and Engineering at INEGI.

Given the increasing competitiveness in the industry, it is imperative to reduce costs and eliminate waste. But not only in operational processes it is possible to identify failures and improve efficiency. In administrative areas it's also possible to improve!

The concepts of Lean Methodology - despite having been created and initially introduced in the industry - are currently studied and applied in several areas. Information technologies, human resources, public service and administrative areas are some examples, the latter being the focus of this article.

Lean Office is a methodology that uses the same concepts of Lean Manufacturing, applied to administrative processes. Its objective is to guide the definition of objectives related to cost reduction, minimization of communication problems, increase in productivity and better use of the work area.

Although Lean thinking is already present in most organizations, the Lean Office is still not a common practice. Perhaps because, in the parameterization for the services sector and administrative processes, the companies find many difficulties in the implementation and quantification of results. Our consultants in Industrial Management and Engineering, however, emphasize the importance of Lean Office for gains in productivity and innovation in organizations, supporting them with techniques and tools that support this methodology.

As the value stream, in this case, consists of the information and knowledge flow, the way in which this methodology is applied in the administrative sector is not so linear. However, optimizing the flow of administrative processes is as essential for the development of companies as the very processes that create the products. 

How to implement Lean methodology in administrative processes?


The goal in this step is to create value for the customer through resource optimization, as well as creating a smooth workflow based on actual customer requirements. Therefore, it's necessary to have a well-structured strategic planning in the administrative area, ensuring customer satisfaction, whether external or from the organization itself.

A standardized flow of information facilitates employee performance and helps them succeed. Otherwise, the outputs can vary greatly according to who performs the task, causing instability and the possibly of "rework”. It's necessary to map the processes to be standardized, review the office procedures that involve the changes, and ensure, through training sessions and meetings, that they are clearly understood and fulfilled in the daily lives of employees.


After the stabilization and normalization of administrative processes, Lean tools must be implemented that seek to reduce waste and eliminate activities that do not generate value.

One of the main results is to simplify the work. With less variability throughout the process, employees tend to adhere to the methodology. In addition, the objective is to reduce the duration and obtain more success in completing the activities, promoting greater enthusiasm and less stress.


At this stage, we must find ways to automate processes using available technologies. Visual management, to be implemented together, is the most effective and efficient communication method for performance analysis. The use of Lean methodology tools such as Kanban, Andon and color coding can simplify and minimize communication errors in the process.

Kanban is a signaling tool that promotes the visualization of the progress of activities. As a widespread example, the "To Do", "In Progress" and "Done" controls can be pointed out. 

The Andon tool, in turn, aims to alert employees through color coding about problems in real time, such as overdue tasks with a red flag. In this way, associated with Kanban, improvements can be implemented with greater dynamism and assertiveness in your communication.

With techniques that make waste more visible, it takes less time to identify performance issues and issues. The application of these concepts and technologies to automate administrative activities makes the flow of work and information more objective and structured.

Continuous Improvement

By introducing the previous steps, administrative processes tend to add value for customers. However, the continuous improvement cycle, a key feature of the Lean methodology, needs constant monitoring and adjustments.

To achieve long-term results, changes are proposed on a smaller scale, within existing departments or functions. These local improvements will lay a foundation for deeper changes to be made in the future. 

Likewise, it is imperative to provide a safe learning environment. The culture of continuous improvement is sustained through team development. Not all organizations invest enough in this phase, which can even contribute to the training of future employees in the organization.

Although Lean Thinking is already present in most organizations, Lean Office is still not a common practice. Our consultants in Industrial Engineering and Management, however, emphasize the importance of Lean Office for gains in productivity and innovation in organizations, supporting them with techniques and tools that support this methodology.

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