What is Lean Office

Lean Office emerged from the concepts of lean production and its application tools aim to reduce waste within the offices through a continuous flow of processes that add value to the product/service delivered to the client, offering tools to provide the organization with a framework whose processes are aligned with the search for constant improvement, profit maximization and cost reduction. To better understand the reason for the creation of this term, where it came from, we need to do a brief recap on the history of the term Lean.


The term Lean, initially associated with Lean Manufacturing, had its first appearance after the World War II, when Toyota needed to find a way to break into the passenger car market dominated by the American giants. It was from this need that Toyota engineer and creator Taiichi Ohno created the Toyota Production System (TPS) whose objective is the standardization of production processes, elimination of waste and the consequent reduction of operating costs, which leads to greater efficiency, optimization and quality of products. Thus, the Lean philosophy emerged, which was no longer restricted to Toyota and production and started to be used in the most diverse business areas and in the various market sectors. Besides the productive issue, the philosophy is based on a new way of thinking and guiding a organization in pursuit of the same goal. However, it was with the publication of the book that the term gained popularity.


As we have already said, one of the bases of the Lean philosophy is the continuous search for the reduction of waste, as you should only do those activities that create or add value and that the client is willing to pay, since waste is any time-consuming activity and resource and that does not add value to the product or service provided. According to the Lean philosophy, there are eight wastes:


When more is produced than the client needs or wants.

2. Excess Inventory:

Any part, product or service that goes beyond what is needed to complete the product or service to the client.


Time spent by the product between process steps. Or the time spent by a person waiting for information or document to start their activity.

4. Excess transport: 

Moving products from one location to another without adding value.

5.Super Processing:

The process has more steps than necessary to complete the product. Do more activities to add value to the product that the client will not pay for.

6. Defects:

Any aspect of the product or service that does not meet client requirements.

7. Excessive movement:

Unnecessary movement of people or movement of information.

8. Unused creativity:

Losing ideas by not engaging or listening to employees.


It was from this dissemination of lean thinking that the Lean Office emerged, which uses the same Lean Manufacturing concepts, practices and tools, but applied to offices, whether it is support activities for manufacturing or even in companies whose core business is services provision. Applying the concept of Lean in offices is extremely necessary because, according to the article “Lean Office: value stream management for administrative areas – 8 steps to plan, map and sustain Lean improvements in the administrative areas” by Tapping and Shuker (2010), about 60% to 80% of all costs involved to satisfy a client demand – be it a manufactured part or a
service request – is an administrative function. All waste mentioned in the text, even if in its origin they were originally developed for Lean Manufacturing, are perfectly applicable to Lean Office, as can be seen
in the diagrams below:

Example of Lean in manufacturing processes

There is a reduction in inventories, the product processed in activity “A” goes straight to “B” without waiting in intermediate stocks.

Example of Lean in administrative processes

Reduction in the number of steps and/or activities for product delivery, focus on what really adds value to the product and the client. If you want to know more about how to identify waste and make the process lean, read our article "How to identify waste and opportunities for improvement in administrative processes."