When it comes to continuous process improvement and innovation, manufacturers a well-established track record for institutionalizing efficiency and find new ways to lower costs and reduce cycle times while delivering predictable results. That focus on process translates into quality products at a lower cost, with minimal defects.
Today, the principles and practices that have led to increasing levels of productivity on the manufacturing floor have spread to other parts of the organization and beyond manufacturing to other industries and to companies of all sizes.
Nowhere is this more true than in the common, high-volume, high-velocity processes that are a common part of the back office for most companies, particularly when it comes to finance. Accounts payable practices like vendor invoice processing and accounts receivable/customer service tasks like sales order processing have achieved new levels of efficiency thanks in part to the lean practices that emerged and evolved on the factory floor.
Here are just some examples of how lean principles can be applied to the back office to keep your financial operations running like a well-oiled machine.
Lean Manufacturing focuses on magnifying any action that adds value, while minimizing anything else. That anything else is typically categorized as “waste.” Often, waste takes the form of unnecessary steps or effort that comes workloads that are either overburdened or unevenly distributed.
The obsession with value and the methodical elimination of waste has reaped a huge return on investment for manufacturers, allowing them to compete in a global marketplace where the variability of worker and other factors are overcome by boosting quality, lowering costs and increasing predictability.
That same approach, applied to sales order processing or AP invoice processing, can elevate back office processes from a cost center to a source of strategic advantage.
Applying lean principles to any process often results in more than just incremental improvement in one area of a business. Often, once viewed through a “lean lens,” it becomes hard NOT to re-examine other parts of the business to identify and eliminate waste.
In fact, with the growing adoption of easy-to-implement robotic process automation (RPA) technologies, the traditional hurdles associated with streamlining and automating routine back office functions have been reduced or eliminated, so that companies no longer have an excuse to tolerate process bottlenecks.
Any process where there are multiple stakeholders and a high volume of repetitive tasks are great candidates for a lean approach. Beyond making a cultural shift to adopt and embrace lean principles, the second biggest challenge most companies identify when optimizing any process is fully understanding the process as it exists from the perspective of stakeholders—including external stakeholders like vendors and customers.
Relatively speaking, when it comes to finance automation and other back process optimization, adopting software and systems to automate routine tasks is simple compared to the work involved in agreeing on where waste exists.
In that sense, it’s the culture shift that remains the heavy lift when going lean.
To explore how intelligent process automation and back office lean processes can transform your back office operations, contact your Artsyl Technologies representative.