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Use Lean to achieve the highest performance in indirect areas

Lean Office

Lean has long become routine in production areas, especially through the application of the value stream method as a basis for a continuous improvement and permanent problem solving. In light of the existing competitive pressure, it is now appropriate to introduce lean and efficient processes into the indirect sectors of the business. As in production, the focus should be on flowing processes in the direction of customer requirements.

Therefore, when introducing lean manufacturing, the customer should be the focus of attention! Because of fluctuating customer demand, fast and flexible capacity adjustments are essential. The indirect sector also needs tools in order to be able react flexibly to different customer needs. The identification and avoidance of waste is a central concern of the lean philosophy. Complex interfaces in the flow of information and documents across multiple communication and process stages require intelligent solutions – especially in the office sector. Lean principles simplify day-to-day business, reduce disruptions and rework, and logically structure and accelerate processes. All in all, this leads to significantly higher efficiency and satisfaction among all parties involved.

Our Approach

Enhance transparency with the activity board

For example, work packages coming from the customer are packaged in small-sized bits and distributed to the employees in doses. This allows them to be scheduled faster during processing. The processing of the small work packages and any obstacles are monitored in the Obeya meeting (or SCRUM meeting). The transparency of the work status can be established by an activity board with a corresponding division of the orders into the categories:

  • “IN = not started”
  • “WIP = work in process”
  • “OUT = finished”

Recognize the optimization needs with process mapping

The lean method “Process Mapping” serves as a central method for optimising processes in indirect areas. To select a process in a first step, the core and sub-processes of an examined area are collected by means of an “eyeball diagram”. The processes are then prioritised with a view to jointly starting the improvement activities.

Praxisbeispiel Prozess-Mappig
Fig. 1: Practical example of process mapping

Get an overview with SIPOC-method

For a selected process, a rough outline of the process is created using an SIPOC diagram at the beginning of an improvement action.

SIPOC stands for Supplier - Input - Process - Output - Customer.  

SIPOC Diagramm
Fig. 2: SIPOC-Diagramm, Source: SixSigma

From the actual process to target-process

This is followed by the actual process mapping with the detailed current state recording of a selected process. The aim is to identify the problem areas or weak points. After defining the improvement goals, the target process is then presented with derivation of action fields and measures. The focus is on process orientation and not thinking in organisational units!


In practice, this simple method often results in astonishing effects such as the reducing the lead time of a sales order process by more than 50 percent. This method is also used almost everywhere in the R&D department of an automotive supplier with excellent results in terms of increased efficiency, interface optimisation, and process quality.

Lisa Lang
Lisa Lang
Junior Consultant I IMIG Germany

For further information please contact us either by mail: or by phone: +49 7152 928 460.

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