This incident happened whilst working with a service centre and looking at the task of processing claims.

Unfortunately, in Ireland, many claims in this particular sector are submitted on paper forms.

The task was to map the process of approving these claims.

The process was mapped into small element steps and I was recording a number of claims being completed by Claire.

As is the norm with paperwork applications, we encountered a number of errors and missing information. This required Claire to either make a phone call, write an email or send a letter by post.
It was while Claire was sending a letter that the absence of a reliable supply system came to light.

Claire was out of A4 envelopes and apologised as she now had to walk about 100 metres to the stationary store to get some more envelopes.
Amazingly, in an office of over 200 staff, she came back empty-handed and red-faced.

“There are no A4 envelopes in the store – they’re due in tomorrow!”.
Luckily, Christine overheard the conversation and came to Claire’s rescue.

“You should have asked me. I’ve plenty under my desk”

and she produced a pile of A4 envelopes.
Later on, Paul, who sat beside Claire, returned from a break. Claire told Paul about the embarrassing episode with the envelopes (which increased the process step timing).
“That wouldn’t have happened if I had been here” said Paul.
“I’ve been caught out before – I always keep a store of envelopes under my desk”.

He produced a pile of envelopes to share with Claire.

It was becoming apparent that there were probably more envelopes in that office than would be consumed in months. Anyone who had lost time in the past may have now created their own ‘store’ in the absence of a reliable system – exactly as you or I would do in the same situation.
As soon as those envelopes come in tomorrow, Claire was going to create her own store.

If all 200 staff had the same idea and kept a ‘store’ of 50 envelopes each, there would be 10,000 hidden envelopes in the workplace.

Just like any shortage event, when word gets out that supply has arrived, it quickly gets consumed into those hidden areas.
Imagine the buyer being informed by Claire that there are no A4 envelopes in the storeroom having just received 5000 the previous day!

This same practice can apply to many consumables, materials and tools if there isn’t a serviced storage point close to the point of use.

A good lean supply system will consider usage, lead-times and batch sizes as well as location and service.

You may be interested in applying Lean thinking to your business and putting these ideas into place?

Enterprise Ireland offer support to clients through their Lean Business programmes. Click here for details.

The ManagementWorks project-based Lean Business programme will commence in Dublin in December. Click here for details.