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Lean First In First Out

May 24, 2008
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Making Progress

There are seven steps in determining how to improve the office for continuous flow.

  1. Review current office arrangement and process tasks and determine what wastes are involved in terms of travel, motion and lack of cross-training.

  2. Brainstorm with the team to consolidate office arrangements to reduce or eliminate the wastes identified in (1). Processes may need to be modified, standardized and people trained to the new process.

  3. Determine if an in-process supermarket or FIFO lane is required.

  4. Prepare a plan to implement proposed changes with expected results. Obtain management approval.

  5. implement new office layout and/or new process(es).

  6. Balance work loads amongst workers.

  7. Consider new technologies, software enhancements as you continue to improve.

Another way to control the flow between processes in a method referred to as First In First Out or simply FIFO. FIFO is a work controlled method to ensure the oldest work upstream (first in) is the first to be processed downstream (first out).

In administrative areas each job, every order, quote, invoice, budget report is unique. Every engineer drawing is unique to that customer. Every diagnostic reading from the Radiology Department is unique to that patient. But what is interesting is each of those can be associated with a time element. It may be a rough estimate, but nonetheless, it is something.

The FIFO lane has the following attributes:

  • Located between two processes, clearly identified as such.

  • A maximum number of work units to be placed in the FIFO lane must be made visible.

  • Is sequentially loaded and labeled.

  • Has a signal system to identify the upstream process when the lane is full.

  • Has visual rules and standards posted to ensure FIFO lane integrity.

  • Has a process in place for assisting the downstream process when lane is full and assistance is required.

  • It must be acknowledged the office will always continue to have drop-ins, or immediate management requirements that will affect whatever system you implement to improve office work flow. Do not let that stop you. Continue to collect data on these drop-ins and work to eliminate them or schedule them with the manager.

    The benefits of FIFO are:

  • Reduction in overall lead times.

  • Reduction in queue times (those piles of paper on the desk).

  • Easier identification and rectification of problems when they occur.

  • Reduction in the number of hand-offs.

  • Increased throughput.

  • Reduced stress.

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