Today, we are covering the I in Tim Woods, Inventory. The classic picture of inventory is a bunch of unsold products waiting for a buyer. Every item in the supermarket is inventory. Every unsold car at a dealership is inventory. But this can apply things that are only used internally or to environments where there is no physical inventory.
For instance, think of your clothes closet at home. You probably have multiple articles of clothing in there. When you get something to wear, you have to pick through them. This is not a problem unless the closet begins to get too full, making it hard to find what you are looking for. This is an inventory problem.
The same can be true on a network. If a file is being stored in multiple locations, it vastly increases the likelihood that you will soon have out of date files on your network and that people will be using the wrong version. If you are getting so many emails that you are not reading and processing them all, the chance of missing something important goes up exponentially. If you have a bunch of pre-printed forms, you have the potential of them being obsolete and having to search through many to find the one that you want.
To identify if you have an Inventory problem, look for places where things pile up. That can be forms, old computers, folders on your network, office supplies, emails, phone messages, etc. Find the areas where things are hard to find. For example, on your network, you can link to a file from a hundred locations to make it easy to find, but make sure there is a single, version controlled, copy of that document. Try to make pre-printed forms easily available on demand. If you have work backlogs, dig deeper into the process to remediate them. That may involve changing your workflow. See how different employees handle the same task. There is a good chance someone has already found a better way.
Inventory cannot be completely eliminated, but inventory waste can be managed. Let go of those old dresses and shirts you no longer wear and make things easier for yourself and your customer!