Lean Office

How to Stretch 90 Second of Work to 2,700 Seconds

By Jon Miller Updated on May 16th, 2017

Sometimes it seems like the most difficult part of helping some companies implement lean is sorting out the various legal and purchasing details to finally get a signed contract. While the whole process can seem bureaucratic and non value added, it’s always better to spend the time upfront to have clear written agreements. Today I learned that even a simple thing like signing a contract (the part where you literally put ink on paper) can take 45 minutes. How much of that time was value added? Well, if we count only the approximately 1.5 seconds it took for me to put my signature on a piece of paper about 1.5 seconds out of 2,700 seconds, or 0.55%.
Under normal conditions it should take mo more than 90 seconds to hit print, retrieve the envelope while the document prints, sign the document, stuff, seal and address the envelope and place it in the outgoing mail. Here is how to stretch 90 seconds of work to 2,700 seconds, with a little help from unforseen circumstances.

  1. Print entire document
  2. Walk to printer
  3. Check quality of print outs
  4. Sort out half of the pages (bad quality due to ink cartridge running low)
  5. Open printer and remove ink cartridge
  6. Open ink cartridge box
  7. Replace ink cartridge
  8. Close printer
  9. Return to desk
  10. Print missing pages (10-end)
  11. Walk to printer to check
  12. Identify that page 9 is missing
  13. Return to desk
  14. Print page 9 only again
  15. Walk to printer to check
  16. Identify only header of page 9 printed – no text
  17. Return to desk
  18. Investigate page 9 – learn document is write-protected
  19. Print page 9 to PDF file on desktop
  20. Open PDF document and print
  21. Walk to printer
  22. Combine sheets
  23. Find ruler
  24. Draw signature line on last page
  25. Sign document
  26. Find envelope
  27. Put contract in envelope
  28. Seal envelope
  29. Cut address from printed sheet
  30. Glue address to envelope
  31. Search for address label
  32. Ask Isaac location of address label
  33. Find address label
  34. Attach label to envelope
  35. Find marker
  36. Cross out old address on pre-printed envelope
  37. Place envelope in mail outgoing area
  38. Return ruler
  39. Walk to recycling bin to throw away paper and cardboard scrap
  40. Return to desk
  41. Close contract document
  42. Bask in tremendous sense of accomplishment

The customer wants a signed document mailed to them so in this process examples of some of the value added steps include:

  • Printing the document
  • Signing the document
  • Putting the document in envelope, addressing and sealing

The non value added steps which are required to guarantee quality or to avoid greater wastes are:

  • Check quality of print out
  • Ink cartridge changeover
  • Walk to recycling bin to throw away paper and cardboard scrap

The vast majority of time and effort during this 45 minutes adds no value and can be classified as waste. Let’s review some examples:
Walk to printer

  • Why? The printer is shared and centrally located. Multiple walking to and from the printer was caused by the defective print jobs, caused by ink running low and also the document settings which prevented printing a single page

Sort out last half of pages

  • Why? Pages were faded
  • Why? The ink cartridge was running low

Print page 10-end again

  • Why? Same reasons as above – ink cartridge

Print page 9 only

  • Why? Page 9 on the footer of the page was not the same as the page 9 in the printer setting due to the way the pages were numbered in the document

Print page 9 only again

  • Why? Only the header printed
  • Why? The document was write-protected in some way and did not allow printing of a single page
  • Why? Unknown, so printed page 9 as PDF and printed from PDF instead of original document

Draw signature line on last page

  • Why? The customer document had no signature line
  • Why? Unknown. They asked us to write our name in and sign under it on last page

Search for Gemba address label

  • Why? The location of labels was no immediately obvious
  • Why? Locations of labels, etc. are below knee-level and cannot be seen from standing position
  • Why? Design and placement of storage area
  • Why? Problem not discovered until untrained operator (me) tried to find labels

Cross out old address on pre-printed envelope

  • Why? The old address needs to be crossed out
  • Why? We use envelopes with the old address rather than throwing them out
  • Why? The address labels were clear, not on white paper stock so the labels does not cover up the old address

I wish we had been video taping the whole incident. No, I will not reinact it. Unless of course it is on the happy occasion of signing another consulting contract.

  1. Robert

    January 26, 2009 - 11:13 pm

    To the printing-story: our company “optimized” the printing few years ago. Before this project almost every organisation units had a printer (laser jets). Out IT decided it is very expensive (tech support, accessories, etc) and started the project with the goal “centralized printing”.
    Now we don’t have a printer, if we have something to print, we have to walk to another office. It is also very important to know, that now we have multifunctional machines (scanner, printer, fax), the type of the printer is set to the needs of the organisation (quantity of printed pages/year).
    It is much cheaper now (cost pro year) but we have to walk a lot. The other advantage is that we think about whether printing is necessary to avoid the walking 🙂
    It was not easy as it started, but we got used to it…

  2. Jack

    January 27, 2009 - 4:30 am

    We have a large machine (monument) that prints, copies and receives faxes. Because of these multiple functions and many moving parts, it is continually breaking down. Because people use it for all of the functions mentioned it creates waiting times and queues at the machine. Instead of right sizing with several simple machines, someone was sold the idea that this machine (monument) was better.

  3. Chris Nicholls

    January 27, 2009 - 6:41 am

    Hi Jon
    Thank you for an interesting and I guess common list of problems encountered by many people when printing documents.
    My advice is first, only print documents as a last resort and only when there’s no other electronic way to communicate.
    Second, get a Multi Function Printer or MFP, send all your printing automatically from your PC. MFP’s can print, scan, fax, copy in one device(and make coffee, only a joke).
    I can recommend Ricoh’s extensive range of reliable MFP’s please contact your local dealer without delay and try one out.
    Best Regards

  4. sean

    January 27, 2009 - 6:59 am

    How many hours a year do you spend walking to that printer? There is a cost to making people walk. What if they went to an even larger “cheaper” per page printer that was 30 minutes from your desk? Would that save the company even more money?
    What if management required a supervisor signature before a document could be printed? That would prevent a lot of printing, and save money, but at what cost?

  5. Mark Graban

    January 27, 2009 - 8:59 am

    Thanks for sharing that story, Jon.
    Same problem can be seen with “monument” printers in a hospital. For the “savings” generated by the centralized printers, there’s tons of walking all day long.

  6. Jon Miller

    January 27, 2009 - 2:23 pm

    Thanks for your comment Sean.
    It’s a small office and the printer is no more than 15 feet away from anyone. I spend almost no time printing documents or walking to the printer normally. That said, this whole incident is probably a good reason to evaluate our office layout again, including location of shared items.

  7. Scott Sorheim

    February 3, 2009 - 7:04 am

    This is a great, tangible example for helping people to understand how to identify and eliminate waste. It’s something people can relate to.
    And I love #42, because so many people thrive on that…they live so much for that moment, that identifying standard work is difficult because then they’d have to give up the feeling of being the expert who can master the task!

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