Using Lean to improve
at the University of St Andrews
Lean at the University of St Andrews
an introductory guide
The benefits of Lean 2
Why Lean at St Andrews? 3
The five principles of Lean 4
The eight wastes 5
How can I implement Lean in my area? 6
Knowing what your customer wants 7
Measuring and data-gathering 8
Using charts to interpret information 9
Mapping the customer journey 10
Using 5S to organise your workplace 11
Using visual management tools 12
What next? Keeping Lean going 13
How do I make Lean work for me? 14
Ensuring great customer service 15
Where can I get more support? 16
The benefits of Lean
Why go Lean?
Lean thinking began with the Toyota Production System which transformed car manufacturing
in post-war Japan, but is now being used by companies and organisations around the world,
in the public and private sectors, to improve:
Quality and efficiency
Internal communication and cooperation
Lean is simple to implement and results are easily sustained.
The principles are common-sense and can be adapted to give benefits in a range of
business and service environments. For example, in recent years both Tesco and the NHS
have successfully used Lean to improve the quality of their service. The benefits they have
Reduced waiting times
Improved customer experience
Why Lean at St Andrews?
People have got all sorts of questions about Lean:
– Why here, why now?
– Isn’t “Lean” more appropriate to manufacturing and heavy industry?
– Is this just the latest management fad?
The fact is, Lean has proven its worth in streamlining processes and improving
Efficiency within office administration. Many UK universities are now implementing
large-scale change programmes aimed at reviewing their administrative services and
developing a culture of continuous improvement.
High quality administrative support is vital for the smooth running of every area of the
University of St Andrews. As in many organisations, administrative functions in St Andrews
have grown organically, which can lead to some services suffering because of a lack of
coordination and clarity of purpose.
We have a lot of skilled and motivated people who want to provide great service.
Now it’s important to ensure that our administrative staff members are able to direct their
Time and energy in doing so, without being held back or let down by outdated,
The five principles of Lean
Specify Value Is our service currently providing value to the customer? One of the ways in
which we can find this out is by measuring the type and frequency of
For us, ‘the customer’ will almost certainly mean our students, but may also
include our colleagues in other parts of the University, parents, alumni and
Identify the value stream By mapping our administrative processes, step-by-step, we can see what
adds value and provides a good service to our customers, and where there is
Make the process flow We work on eliminating waste from our administrative processes, to
streamline the end-to-end journey. This makes the process ‘flow’ smoothly
and efficiently, and minimises delay.
Let the customer pull By focusing on the customer, we can understand and respond efficiently to
customer demand. We look at every transaction between the customer and
ourselves from the customer point of view.
Continual Improvement We aim for perfection by taking responsibility for reviewing and improving
our service on an ongoing basis.
The eight wastes
Lean begins with an awareness of waste in our administrative processes, and in considering
how we can reduce or remove it.
The eight wastes we may find are:
Transport Unnecessary movement of materials, Over- Producing either too much paperwork /
people, information or paper. production information, or producing it before it is
required. This consumes resources faster
Inventory Excess stock: unnecessary files and Over- Processing things that don’t add value to
copies, and extra supplies. processing the customer, e.g. asking for student
details multiple times, excessive checking
Motion Unnecessary walking and searching; Defects Work that needs to be redone due to
things not within reach or accessible. errors (whether human or technical) or
because incorrect or incomplete
information was provided.
Waiting Idle time that causes the workflow to Skills Not using full potential of staff; wasting
stop, such as waiting for signatures, misuse the available knowledge, experience and
machines, phone calls. ideas.
How can I implement Lean in my area?
Lean has a number of tools that can be used to help you. These tools are designed to be quick
and simple to use, and present information in a visual way that is easy to understand.
Charts and diagrams
Value stream mapping
5S for workplace organisation
These are just some of the tools that may help you understand demand, measure performance
and plan for change.
The Lean project team can give you information on and examples of further tools that you may
Knowing what your customer wants
Who is your customer?
Probably your customers include students. Consider also the other people (or organisations)
to whom you provide information, data, paperwork or to whom you refer students. Internally,
your customers may be academics, School secretaries, or colleagues in other administrative
departments. Externally, you may deal with parents, alumni, colleagues at other higher
education institutions, funding bodies, local businesses, etc.
Your customer = anyone, internal or external, who is affected by your
processes or services
What does your customer want?
The best way to find out is to ask them.
Arrange to visit colleagues for a chat about what they need from you.
Use feedback forms (printed or electronic) to ask your customer to rate your service.
Collect data on what customers are asking you when they get in touch, in their own
Encourage feedback – good AND bad. A silent customer isn’t necessarily a happy customer,
and you can only fix the problems if you know what they are.
Measuring and data-gathering
A good place to begin building a picture of your current processes and service is by
measuring and data-gathering.
Consider measuring such things as:
End-to-end time of dealing with a work unit (this may be an individual file or application,
a visitor, an invoice, or a transaction).
How long work or customers spend waiting for the next step in the process.
Volume of work dealt with, and how this varies over a year (or week/month).
Number, type and source of errors.
Frequency and type of customer demand – what are your customers asking for, do most
of them want similar things, and are they currently receiving what they want from you?
Type of communication – how many people contact you by phone? By email? By letter
or fax? In person?
Use charts to interpret information
A chart can be an effective and precise way both to analyse your processes and to
communicate results to others.
80 A pareto chart is a bar chart,
70 ordered highest to lowest.
This gives an instant comparison
30 and allows you to focus on the
20 biggest or most time-consuming
Phone calls Em ails Letters Visitors
A run chart shows data over time,
and allows you to identify trends
and patterns. 60
Mapping the customer journey
A key part of the Lean methodology is value stream mapping.
Value is anything that is worthwhile from the customer point of view.
The stream is the journey from end to end. The ideal process flows smoothly, to deliver
output to the downstream customer as quickly and efficiently as possible.
Start with where you are now. Map each step of your service journey from the customer’s
point of view.
This will be most effective if it is done in a
group, by the people who do the work.
It’s important that EVERY step is included, as
this is a picture of how things really are
rather than how things should be.
The value stream map can be hand drawn,
or even done with Post-It notes.
Once you have a current state map of your customer journey, identify all the steps which add
value to the customer.
Everything else is either non-value adding or is waste.
Using 5S to organise your workplace
5S is a way of eliminating waste in your immediate
office environment. It gives workers more control
over their workplace and is a great way to start an
The 5S system has five key activities:
1. Sort and remove unnecessary
2. Straighten up your work area so
that you have easy and efficient
Sustain Straighten access to everything you need.
3. Shine means making sure
everything is clean and in good
4. Standardise by creating
Standardise Shine guidelines for keeping the area
5. Sustain by making 5S a habit.
Using visual management tools
Visual management makes use of charts,
diagrams, tags, colour-coding, in fact anything that
gives instant visual feedback on the current work
Use visual management to communicate current
conditions to your whole team Make sure the
display is easily visible, and keep it simple.
Visual management being used to track current
state in Recruitment.
Two visual control concepts you may come
across in Lean are:
kanban – a signal to replace stock or respond
to a customer demand.
poka-yoke – this is a way of mistake-proofing
using colour or shape, or otherwise limiting
options, to guide your customer to do things in
the correct way. A primary visual display in use in the School of Modern
What next? Keeping Lean going
Future state mapping involves redesigning your processes, removing as much waste
as possible. The ideal state is one of continuous flow, where you are responding to
customer demand or ‘pull’ at exactly the right time. In administration, this means
performing only the work that is needed at the moment, and avoiding work that is not
required by the customer (whether a student or a colleague).
This can be done by considering the end-to-end process rather than each person’s
current duties. Again, this works best if the people who do the work are involved.
Reorganising your workspace can have
immediate benefits for efficiency, by
improving communication, reducing
motion waste, and enabling ‘joined-up’
Of course, when making decisions that
will change jobs and workspace, ensure
there is two-way communication at
How do I make Lean work for me?
You can help make your Lean initiative a success by:
Making a real time commitment – the more time you can put in, the quicker
the results and greater the rewards will be.
Allocating the resources and getting everyone involved.
Being clear about what you want to achieve.
Communicating with your team, and listening to their suggestions.
If you and your colleagues are working with the Lean project team, it’s also helpful if you:
Stay flexible and stay involved.
Keep an open mind about the possibilities.
Commit to sustaining effort over time.
Implementing Lean does require an initial investment of time, energy and imagination.
Those who have made this commitment have found the results worthwhile.
Where can I get more support?
The Lean project team is happy to help or advise on any aspect of Lean implementation,
process streamlining and customer service improvement.
Call us on extension 2786 (Ali), 2784 (Steve), 2776 (Nicki)
Or send us an email: firstname.lastname@example.org
You can also visit our web pages:
Photo by: Alan Richardson
James P Womack and Daniel T Jones Lean Thinking
Don Tapping and Tom Shuker Value Stream Management for the Lean Office
Michael Heppell Five Star Service, One Star Budget
Nigel May Barlow Batteries Included! Creating Legendary Customer Service
Bourton Group Lean training material 2006
For further resources on Lean and other service improvement initiatives, please
see our web page: www.st-andrews.ac.uk/lean
Created by Nicki Brain, March 2007
Photos by Steve Yorkstone (Unless otherwise credited).