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Paper Inventory Management: A Lean Approach

After years of inefficient visual monitoring of paper supplies, this in-plant developed a Lean approach to inventory management.

February 2011 By Carmin Cristofaro
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AN IN-PLANT is a perfect candidate for applying Lean production practices. We are essentially a manufacturing environment that uses multiple steps in various processes. We utilize a variety of equipment, technology, human resources and supplies. There is an ever-present risk of waste and errors, and quality and speed are at the forefront of our concerns.

One of the best features of Lean is its low-cost approach to quality improvement. Lean philosophy forces you to come up with affordable solutions and avoid purchasing expensive equipment or implementing costly systems to tackle performance or quality issues. As a government-funded health care organization, we have embraced Lean for this very reason.

When the two print shops of the McGill University Health Centre, in Montreal, Quebec, merged in September 2009 and relocated to an office building, we took the opportunity to do some housekeeping. An initial sorting of unnecessary and outdated supplies was done at the old locations and the rest was packed and shipped to the new location.

In a mad scramble to get the shop up and running, the paper was placed on shelves or stacked in designated spaces with only a basic plan. Having just entered one of the busy seasons, our first priority was to provide service, and doing it while adapting to our new environment proved to be quite a challenge. So for the next few months, staff was running around hunting for paper and finding it in more than one location. Out-of-stock panics were becoming routine, and our coordinator was going nuts.

Very Busy Operation

Our in-plant provides printing services to six hospitals plus four external health care establishments. It produces more than 20 million impressions per year, with jobs ranging from forms to wide-format. Two Xerox Nuvera printers operated by one technician share the bulk of that volume; the two offset press operators run a Multilith 2650 as well as a Ryobi 3302. Digital color is handled by one employee operating a Xerox DocuColor 252 and a 700.

The department is staffed by eight employees, six of whom are in production. One employee performs prepress tasks while another handles job requests and various other office duties. One of those duties is ordering supplies such as paper, toner cartridges, inks, etc.

Like most shops, the paper we use most is 20-lb. bond, which accounts for probably half the volume. The rest of the paper is quite varied and includes pre-punched three-hole and five-hole paper, colored bond, carbonless paper (both pre-assembled and unassembled), fine papers, label materials, digital papers, card stock, etc. Total inventory at any time is approximately $70,000.


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