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  • Writer's pictureStephanie Hill

The Frequency Factor - Office Vs. Manufacturing -

Updated: Jan 16, 2021

In Part One of this blog series, I shared the importance of understanding and adapting to three key factors that impact results when doing continuous improvement (CI) work in an office vs. manufacturing environment.

1. Association to Work

2. Frequency of Work Units

3. Significance of Waste

We have already discussed “Association to Work.” So this week, we will dive into “Frequency of Work Units.” Remember that the first three blog posts will describe the key differences, while the fourth will provide tips for how to adapt a CI approach to accommodate each factor.

In the simplest description, manufacturing settings typically move many widgets through a process in a short period of time. In contrast, a service or office setting may process fewer widgets over a longer period of time. In some industries or departments, this is not the case. For example, manufacturing an airplane takes much more time than creating a paperclip. In an office setting, a customer experience department may handle 40 calls in one hour, while a product development engineer may create one product every year. As a general rule, an office environment tends to produce fewer complete work outcomes in a given period of time than in manufacturing.

Why does this difference impact how we manage our CI efforts?

-It may be difficult to gather the right data before and after an improvement is made.

Having the necessary data to create a baseline and future state picture helps create a clear why behind an improvement effort. It can also enable financial decisions when that data is translated into dollars.

-It impacts how we go to the gemba, or the real place of work, to see how value is created.

Going to the gemba allows CI participants the opportunity to assess value, waste, and to gain a better understanding of the people who do the work. Without this real-world experience, suggested improvements may miss the mark entirely or lack buy-in.

-It impacts our ability to sustain momentum throughout the life of the change.

Since it can take several months to fully implement a change in an office setting, participants or leaders may be tempted to shift focus and resources to a different issue.

Or people may assume that once the changes are implemented, they can move on to something else without taking the time to evaluate the effort’s success or needed revisions.

Each of these impacts is a very real struggle for an unprepared CI practitioner. In the fourth blog of this series, I will share methods to prevent the “frequency factor” from becoming a hindrance to success.

In the meantime, please Contact Us at to share your story. Or let us know if you would like additional help overcoming these challenges in your organization.

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