Lean is a philosophy, a theory that acts as a guiding principle for continuous improvement and customer focus through the optimisation of information flow. The right document management system (DMS) can support a lean business effort by improving how information is managed and controlled.
Lean document management is an approach to the process of creating and revising controlled documents that minimises waste by providing exactly the information that is needed, at the right time, to the right audience – and nothing more.
The modern concept of lean was developed by Toyota in the mid-twentieth century. Lean identifies seven types of waste that should be eliminated from a business:
- Defects or errors - completed work that must be redone
- Overproduction - producing unnecessary materials or products
- Waiting - idle time waiting for materials, information, people or equipment
- Inventory - excessive work in progress or overstocking of materials or products
- Transportation - moving materials or work in progress between locations unnecessarily
- Motion - time wasted on excessive movement by workers or equipment
- Overprocessing - processes with more steps than necessary or performing tasks not required
A quick glance at that list identifies a few of the waste types that a lean DMS could help eliminate.
How much time is wasted because the information a person needs isn’t readily to hand? Or because the person who needs it isn’t aware it’s available? Or the person who is producing the information isn’t aware when the recipient needs it?
All three of those scenarios are common enough in organisations of almost any size. And they can be mitigated by deploying a good DMS.
A DMS will add information management structures (file naming and version control) so that time isn’t wasted searching for the right document or file. It will also add transparency and a governance system for projects and processes so that the people involved at each step are aware of when information is required and when it is in a completed state, ready to be utilised.
Defects / errors
If a product or other output is produced that doesn’t meet customer expectations or business requirements, that work has to be either redone or scrapped.
One of the ways this can happen, especially in complex product development, arises when the the next development step is advanced from a version of information that isn’t the latest or isn’t the correct one.
Depending on how much work is done after this misstep or how fundamental the missed revisions are, this can be a very costly mistake.
Were the latest changes saved with an inconsistent file name or somewhere unexpected by accident? A lean DMS creates a central repository of information, an enforced naming convention and a revision acceptance process. When set up properly, it becomes almost impossible for teams to fall into “wrong version pitfall.”
Excess inventory in the form of raw materials, work in progress or finished goods can be a by-product of over production and too much waiting. If a lean DMS can provide transparency, control and governance, then certain areas of inventory waste could be reduced.
For example, if the latest bill of materials, updated build documents or changes to customer requirements can be easily identified and found, an organisation can avoid accidentally ordering the wrong materials or creating surplus product.
Overproduction is to create an item before it is required. Or to create more than is needed. This is “Just in Case” as opposed to “Just in Time.”
Some refer to this as the worst of the 7 wastes, because it incorporates many of the other wastes as well.
You might have a problem with defects so you build more products to make sure you have enough good ones to ship. In which case you have too much inventory and are, almost certainly, moving and transporting and over processing throughout.
The right DMS can be a business management system, giving you a strong central control over all of your business processes, whether product development, manufacturing, or back office systems.
Waste is an enormous impediment to the effective running of a business. Wasted effort, wasted time and wasted resources can slow down outputs and hurt profitability. Waste at any point of the product development cycle can slow the entire product development process, compromising the value to the customer.
Lean process management eliminates waste through heightened visibility, governance and accuracy.
The customer is at the centre of a lean business model. When a lean approach is applied correctly, the result is improved efficiency, productivity, reduced time to market and increased value to customers.
A document management system will not automatically eliminate waste from your organisation. But, without a lean DMS, you may find it harder to create the necessary efficiencies in the flow of information in order to operate in a lean manner.