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Running lean and mean is goal at government summit

New Hampshire Union Leader

September 18. 2012 9:49PM
Doug Folsom, general manager for GE Aviation in Hooksett left, Amanda Grappone, director of sales for Grappone Auto Group, and Gov. John Lynch, moderator, were among business and government leaders talking about efficiencies in the workplace as part of the Lean Summit held Tuesday in Concord. (Paul Tracy/Union Leader)

CONCORD - Stretched thin and overworked, a government, just like a manufacturing business, can still find ways to be more efficient with less, more than 300 state official, business and government leaders heard Tuesday.

Lean Summit for New Hampshire was the subject of a morning-long gathering at State Police Standards and Training, in which examples were offered in an effort to help spread the philosophy of doing more with less.

Gov. John Lynch, who worked at a furniture company before leadership in state government, said the principles of lean manufacturing apply to government.

'Lean is not a goal,' he said. 'It is a process, a culture, a way of doing business.'

He said it makes employees happier and it makes customers happier.

The governor, who is not seeking reelection, said he has made it a priority to make state government more efficient and Tuesday was a chance to showcase some of those successes. Seven examples from the Executive branch were highlighted at booths around the room, which included:

- At Health and Human Services, where 156,000 residents receive services, waiting lines were long and there was a lot of paperwork. By increasing technology and streamlining the process through electronic document filing, district offices are now paperless and uniform for all 11 offices.

- Permits for Land Resources Management Programs under the Department of Environmental Services, including shoreline permits and alteration of terrain used to have separate staff and procedures for each of the four types of permits. It could take 14 days to process some applications. Now, permits are issued the same day with up to 40 percent reduction in processing time and elimination of duplicate data entry.

- A Department of Transportation initiative for those applying for permits to move overweight vehicles was revamped using Google Earth. They can now go online and see which bridges they can and cannot use to move overweight vehicles. Now, 85 percent of permits can be approved within minutes, compared to five to seven business days.

- Bottlenecks were eliminated within the state Department of Administration accounts payable process. It reduced nine tons of paper a year and reduced duplication of paperwork with a new accounting system.

Lynch said often it is not the high-paid consultant that comes up with the best solutions to the problems, but the person who has been working in the department for years who can identify the problem, suggest a solution and come up with a better plan.

He said the most important thing in business, as with government, is to remember 'it all starts with the customers ... and the first question is who are the customers and what are their needs.'

Lynch gave another example - open road tolling in the Seacoast - as a great way to save the customer time.

Chris Clement, commissioner of the Department of Transportation said 'New Hampshire DOT is being asked to do more with less staff and funding. Lean allows us to be more efficient, to increase customer satisfaction, to remove non-valuable added steps with all our processes.'

Sam McKeeman, director of Organizational Development and Training for Maine Bureau of Human Resources, was the keynote speaker.

He said lean can work if people just adopt the methods.

'I believe it also involves the philosophy like martial arts ... and part of that is people, engaging people with their head, their heart their hands,' McKeeman said. 'Lean requires their passion become part of it.'

Doug Folsom, general manager for GE Aviation in Hooksett, was part of a panel on lean practices.

'Lean has stuck around the longest because it is a philosophy ... it is about identifying waste,' he said.

Benefits include fewer labor hours and employees feel like they are adding more value.

Amanda Grappone, director of sales for Grappone Auto Group, said it starts by allowing people to solve their own problems.

She gave an example of an employee in the company's collision repair shop who found a solution to a problem for downsizing the paint room. That solution is now patented.

'We surfaced the creativity and it took on its own life,' she said.

General News Manchester

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