6 Practical Tips from Lean Manufacturing if You’re Busy

Do you recognize this?

  • You’re very busy in the office
  • You have a long to-do list and you go home with even longer list
  • Your inbox is running over
  • Your telephone is ringing “all the time”
  • Your nice colleagues drop in for a cup of coffee but you really don’t have time for them

If you recognize this, then the following tips will help you.

I have used these methods in many situations, creating free capacity at no costs.

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The background:

One of the core principles of Lean Manufacturing and Lean Management is the reduction of SET-UP TIME / CHANGE OVER TIME.

Each time you have to stop the machine, change the tools, remove waste materials, clean the machine and tooling, replace materials for the next product, test settings, adjust tools and settings, etc. is all waste of time and money because you’re not producing during this time.

So it is very important to reduce the SET-UP or CHANGE OVER TIME.

Interestingly, this is applies in the office environment as well!

Here is how you do it:

Step 1: Make a list of all your activities

Just write down everything you do. Not only your daily tasks but also things you do weekly and monthly.

Step2: Group your activities

This will make the analysis of your time easy.

Step 3: Register your time – the base line

This is a tough one… because you have to have the disciple to write down everything you do and the time it takes to complete it. My advice is to make this registration form in MS Excel, use drop down list to select the activity group and enter only the time you start with the activity.

The start time of the next activity is by definition the end time of the previous activity. This ensures that you don’t forget to register the end time and that the start time of the next activity will not fall before the end time of the previous activity. Can you follow me…?

Important: register everything, even a few minutes’ phone conversations. The better the quality of your data the better understanding you have of the situation.

Step 4: Analyze your data

After one week you can start analyzing your data – even some of the activities are not yet occurred on your registration.

You can do 2 things: analyze the time you spend per activity groups OR/AND calculate the number of times you change to the next activity.

I suggest you start with this later one because that is easier to improve.

The number of lines you have per day in your time registration form equals the number times you stop and start a new activity. Even if the activity only takes a minute or two. You lose on efficiency.

I had a client where the customer service department has complained about the workload. They started registering every of their activities and we found out that they had on average 42 change-over to new task per day. With other words, they spent about 13 minutes on 1 task.

This causes major stress in their life.

Step 5:  Block your time for important activities

This is the “Improve Phase” in Lean Six Sigma. The phase where you start making improvements based on your data analyses.

Decide on what is your most important activities/group of activities and reserve a certain amount of time for them during the morning.

As Tim Ferriss wrote about it in his book, 4 hour work week, don’t start your day with opening your email box but rather work on your priorities first before anybody else (read: the sender of an email) will decide on your priorities.

  • Blocking (reserving) time in your agenda puts YOU in charge of your own time. You are in control.
  • Blocking time means you reduce the number of times you switch to a new task – without finishing the previous one.
  • Blocking time means you reduce the setup/change-over times; therefore you reduce waste and increase your own capacity.

Step 6: Action

Most probably the rest of your organization, colleagues, and contacts will need to be “educated” on your new way of working. One of the methods I use with my clients is the auto-responder function in your email software.

Here you can explain in an email – short but very clear – what your new schedule is and when you are going to check the emails and react on their queries. This automated message would be sent to everybody who sends you and email (or you can select some of them), as long as you wish.

When you notice that your colleagues have learnt that you work according to your priorities, they will not disturb you with questions, email, phone calls if they know WHEN you’re going to work on those issues and that you STICK to your plans.

In this way you’re reliable and very efficient person who is working according to clear objectives and reducing wastes.

If you want to learn more tools and techniques to improve your efficiency and of those working with you, please register for the upcoming Lean Six Sigma training at

Warm regards,


PS: If you think your friend, colleague or relative can also benefit from this email, please forward it.

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