July 7, 2017

Lean Six Sigma at Your Firm: Motion

by Debbie Foster, Affinity Consulting Group, LLC

How are you doing when it comes to efficiently moving inventory? I hope our last segment was helpful to you and challenged you to think about the way work gets done at your firm. Our next waste to tackle is MOTION. We previously explored the waste of transportation, which is all about the movement of information or materials from one place to another. Motion is about people moving from one place to another.

But it’s not all about getting up and walking to a different place. After all, the goal is not to get people to sit in their chairs eight hours a day and never get up. But, it is important to recognize the cost of the interruption to people’s work when they must go get or find something. This takes us back to the discussion on paper files: if you cannot do your work unless a paper file is in front of you, there will always be unnecessary motion. If your users save electronic files in two places, that’s considered unnecessary motion. Creating a pile of mail that must be sorted and filed away in paper files is unnecessary motion.

One of my favorite examples of unnecessary motion is the use of a central scanner for all scanning versus having desktop scanners for those who regularly scan. A desktop scanner is inexpensive (the Fujitsu ScanSnap iX500 is an excellent, reliable desktop scanner) and should be standard issue for anyone who regularly scans documents. It’s nice to have the central scanner/copier for large projects, but they should simply not be the only scanning solution in a law firm. My good friend Jim Calloway from the Oklahoma Bar Association once said, “having a centralized scanner in a law firm makes just about as much sense as having a centralized waste basket.” Can you imagine if people had to get up from their chairs to throw something away?

Office design plays a part in motion waste as well. How far away is the lawyer’s office from the paralegal who supports him or her? Do teams that work together regularly sit in close proximity to each other? If the receptionist manages the conference room, is he or she close to it? These are all things to consider when determining the layout of your office.

Spend some time this week paying close attention to how much people are moving around, and see if there is anything you can do to minimize the motion, and increase people’s efficiency.