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How Digitizing Content, Documents and Processes Supports Lean Principles

By Thomas Schneck • August 4, 2016 at 9:30 AM

Lean_Principles_for_Digitizing_ContentThe best way to truly succeed in business, regardless of your industry, is to put the customer at the center of all decisions so you can deliver the best possible results. It’s also important to keep your company moving forward in the most productive way possible. Fortunately, there’s a method to ensure both.

The method is called Lean principles. The core idea is to maximize customer value while minimizing waste. Simply, Lean means creating more value for customers with fewer resources. The ultimate goal is to provide perfect value to the customer through a value-creation process that has zero waste.

By adopting this method and integrating enterprise content management (ECM) solutions as a tool at your company, you’re poised to solve the waste issues that may be cutting into your bottom line, affecting your customer interactions or holding you back from greater business growth. With ECM, companies transform both cumbersome paper-based processes and disconnected digital information and processes into customer-centric, productivity-enhancing approaches that ensure success in the digital age.

What Are Lean Principles?

With Lean principles, you’re able to reap the benefits of:

  • Better, quicker customer service
  • Reduced waste
  • Less human effort, less space

Lean principles, which originally derived from Lean production in manufacturing, provide a very successful approach to running a business that delivers continuous improvement, weeding out your waste and inefficiencies. This long-term approach systematically seeks to achieve small, incremental changes in processes in order to improve both your employees’ efficiency and the quality of products or services your customers receive.

The Lean method, much like an assembly line, aids in standardizing processes, eliminating waste, reducing variants in products and services, and delivering higher qualities.

Lean manufacturing, and the Lean principles it’s based on, have been around for decades, and many companies have adopted the approach to varying degrees. Some companies, like Toyota, have become role models for the method in the manufacturing industry. Other companies have taken the concept to non-manufacturing sectors because of the obvious benefits in product quality, customer satisfaction and efficiency improvements.

Are Lean Principles Only Applicable To Manufacturing?

A popular misconception is that Lean is suited only for manufacturing. Not true! The helpful concepts in Lean apply to every type of business in every industry. Lean can and should be used for manufacturing and services.

Lean is not a tactic or a cost-reduction program, but rather a way of thinking and acting for an entire organization, and ECM is an integral part of this. With a digital transformation, you’re poised to see Lean principles at work in your organization.

ECM software can be used in all departments of a company. Take, for example, a financial team using Lean principles to evaluate how to meet their goals for the year. If they are aware that aspects of ECM, like document management, are working well elsewhere in the business, this is a perfect opportunity to apply ECM to the finance department by making their invoicing process digital. Eliminating cumbersome paper-based processes and wasted hours results in many benefits for the business.

Where Does ECM Adoption Fit into Lean Principles?

ECM is used to create, store, distribute, discover, archive and manage unstructured content such as scanned documents, emails, reports, medical images and office documents. Ultimately, usage analysis enables organizations to deliver relevant content to users where and when they need it, according to Gartner.

Many organizations find that implementing content management solutions is the key to improving their broken or outdated processes. Enterprise content management is a critical component of achieving a Lean approach and effecting positive change within your business.

When companies implement digital document management, they are striving to work smarter, reduce waste and deliver better, faster results for customers. By eliminating or reducing your business’s need for paper, you can manage documents better, keep expenses down and open up more time in your employees’ daily schedules. When your company digitizes documents and content, stores content in a central repository and implements digital workflows, you will enjoy all these benefits.

Eliminating waste – both in terms of employee time and physical paper – is a great way to boost efficiency and save money. Maximizing your bottom line is just one of the many ECM benefits your company can enjoy.

How Do You Use Lean Principles And ECM To Address Inefficiencies?

Approach Lean principles systematically; this isn’t the time for guesses or assumptions based on what you think is wrong. Many companies that are struggling with inefficiency have been relying on outdated processes to operate a modern business, often with negative outcomes. In these cases, a digital transformation of current processes and workflows is likely the best solution.

To properly discover, define and address the specific areas where your company needs improvement – and where ECM could drastically improve your operations – follow “DMAIC”:Lean principles supply happy customers

D: Define. Ask, “What is my goal?” Identify an objective or opportunity through which you would like to see your company makes gains. Are you wasting too much money on office supplies, like printer ink? Perhaps your customers are complaining that their invoices are inaccurate too often, or your employees are spending too much time sifting through paper records when they could be accessing documents and information in a much quicker and more accurate fashion.

M: Measure. Take the time to measure where you started and whether you’re moving forward toward reaching your goal. In this stage, you may realize your document management processes are much less efficient than you ever imagined.

A: Analyze. Go through your process. Are you seeing a positive ROI with your document processes, or many instances of wasted time and money? Often, it’s helpful to use flow charts or other graphs to see the change visibly and as a group.

I: Improve. Transition from waste and inefficiency to streamlined success by implementing better processes. Now that you know your problem and have a definable goal, find a solution that will tackle the issue and improve efficiency. This is the stage in which you move forward with ECM implementation – one of the most important efforts to achieve Lean initiatives.

C: Control. This is the time to remeasure and see if your new process has gotten you to your goal. According to AIIM, 46% of companies that adopt an enterprise content management strategy report a positive ROI within 12 months, and two thirds do so within 18 months. If you’ve met your objective successfully, move on to the next one, starting back at “Define”; if you haven’t, go back to “Improve” and tweak your approach.

Choosing an ECM solution is an important step toward streamlining your document and information management process, and aligning your company with the concept of Lean manufacturing. A valuable ECM solution does more than just provide an electronic filing cabinet; it actually helps you transition your new process. It allows you to deliver your goods or services efficiently, without losing sight of customer service. In this way, an effective content management solution is necessary for implementing Lean principles.

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Topics: Tips & Tricks, Transitioning, Enterprise Content Management

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