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What is Lean Facility Management and Six Sigma and How Do They Relate?

Practicing lean facility management is an effective way to identify waste and reduce facility management costs, and in many ways, it can seem similar to Six Sigma, a lean process improvement system used within manufacturing. With lean thinking, you hone in on value and identify wasteful practices that must be eliminated. However, each organization defines waste differently. By evaluating which forms of waste are more likely to impact your organization, you'll become one step closer to proactive facility management.

8 Forms of Waste in Lean Facility Management

For some organizations, hard costs such as wages and inventory can be an immediately identifiable, tangible form of waste. Yet for other organizations, soft costs, such as inefficient processes or time spent on administrative tasks can wreak havoc on budgets. Lean facility management identifies eight specific forms of waste that building managers encounter on a day-to-day basis.

1. Transport

Transporting goods and people can produce a lot of waste, especially when you have to transport something unnecessarily. The most common type of this waste happens when we don't have information needed for solving a problem at a facility on-hand. This forces facility teams to waste time and energy driving between facility sites and a maintenance office to access as-builts, manuals or parts. Making sure facility data is collected, up-to-date and distributed is the number one way this waste can be avoided.

2. Inventory 

Waste in inventory is prevalent, particularly in storing parts and documentation. If inventory is out of stock, you will waste labor and time waiting to perform preventive or reactive maintenance. Instead, using a software that keeps track of an asset, the specific parts it requires and its availability can inform a technician ahead of time of any shortage prior to a repair.

Download - Facility Manager's Preventative Maintenance Toolkit

3. Motion 

Do you waste unnecessary time walking or driving between maintenance tasks and a facility office? Are there unnecessary steps performed in your maintenance process? How long is it taking your facility to do manual tasks or searching for specific materials during projects? All these forms of movement result in slow work order completion times and wasted money. Most of the time this problem can be fixed with updating facility floor plans and housing them in a visual-based software so that technicians know exactly where they need to go.

4. Waiting 

Waiting for parts, information, instructions or equipment must be avoided. One of the largest wastes in facilities is waiting around for information via email, phone or paper-based work flows to understand the problem and solution associated with each work order. In a perfect world with perfect information, there would be essentially no waiting, as your team could perform other maintenance activities when there is incomplete information on a work order. Instead, make sure you utilize a facility software that provides a service request portal for occupants to submit tickets that maintenance teams can respond to right away.

5. Over-Production 

In facilities, over-production typically happens when work orders are not closed out or daily operations goes untracked. For example, applying custodial work to areas that are sufficiently clean or performing preventive maintenance on equipment that has been idle. This can be improved by tracking all maintenance activities in your facility maintenance software.

6. Over-Processing 

This typically occurs with duplicate data entry or information processing. Existing paper-based work orders are often the culprit. As an example, information is often re-written 4 different times in the following work flow:

  • Work order is submitted by tenant
  • Property administrator communicates with tenant to write up work order and delegates to maintenance technician
  • Maintenance technician writes what was done as he completes the work order
  • Property admin collects work order and writes up a historical record for billing and archive

Through the use of lean facility management and a facility management software, much of this waste is eliminated. 

7. Defects 

Defects become an issue if maintenance or custodial problems are not solved correctly the first time. Jury-rigging an asset to make it work temporarily may seem like a quick fix, but it puts additional strain on your valuable labor force, as the problem now needs to be fixed twice. Ultimately, this leads to assets breaking (sometimes worse than they were before) and time spent fixing an asset ultimately increased from an original estimate.

8. Skills 

One of the biggest wastes in facilities is under utilizing the capabilities of workers or providing inadequate training, especially with new technical hires. If you are unable to provide your workers clear information on what assets are in your buildings, where they are located and what they need to do to them, they will be underutilized as they spend time trying to relearn the details of your organization. To mitigate this, make sure that all documentation and training materials required to perform a job are tied to the asset they belong to in a facility management software. 

What is the Difference Between Six Sigma and Lean Facility Management?

Six Sigma is a process used to reduce defects. Although it is most applicable to the manufacturing industry, Six Sigma concepts can apply to facility management as well.

Six Sigma is defined as follows by the iSixSigma group:

"Six Sigma is a disciplined, data-driven approach and methodology for eliminating defects (driving toward six standard deviations between the mean and the nearest specification limit) in any process – from manufacturing to transactional and from product to service... To achieve Six Sigma, a process must not produce more than 3.4 defects per million opportunities"

Achieving Six Sigma in facility management is essentially impossible. One method that is applicable is called DMAIC. This stands for "define, measure, analyze, improve, and control." As an example, the DMAIC method could be used in facility management to improve and measure existing work-order processes. When evaluating whether Six Sigma or Lean facility management is a better fit for your organization, consider how granular you need to approach tasks and the waste that can add up. The more detailed the data, the more sense it makes to use Six Sigma.

Apply Lean Facility Management to Your Organization

Just because Six Sigma might be impossible to achieve in your organization doesn't mean a lean facility management practice might be. Lean starts with initial data collection on the assets, spaces and maintenance in your facilities. With this data, you can measure existing performance and create a plan to reduce waste and costs associated with your maintenance.

We recommend starting with the building as a whole, clearly defining square footage and space data. To learn more about getting your facility on the path to proactive, check out our guide to kickstarting a preventative maintenance program.

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