Friday, January 21, 2005

Plan vs Actual, part 4

Plan vs Actual, part 4

So what is a benefit of doing plan vs actual?

My job includes reviewing our Accounts Payable each week. It's always there. And I wondered for quite a while how I could make a "plan" for it.

Some invoices are obvious...we pay the electric bill, we pay for postage. Some are more complex...did we get the quote right for the new machine? Did the person signing off the invoice have the right authority for that level of expenditure? Where's the PO for this one? Is someone slipping burying some added charges in the midst of a complex invoice?

But I stumbled onto an idea for this last November and have been refining it since. While the time taken to review each bill is quite variable, I noted that groups of them tend to average out. Specifically, our accounting system spits out a report for each A/P run and I discovered that one page of A/P on this report tends to be about the same time as the next.

So I started collecting data on how long it takes me to do each page of A/P. The data started out at about 7:30 per page. Since we usually have 4-9 pages each week, I could then do the multiplication and begin to predict how long it would take me.

Then, I further standardized the work and found that I could reliably get the time shorter, while still meeting my responsibilities. Put more simply, standard work helped focus my mind. Fewer drifts off into space while I was doing a standard. Now the time is down to 6:30 per page.

This is remarkably freeing. A/P lands on my desk. A quick look at how many pages, a quick multiplication, a quick look at my schedule and I know where I fit it in. Even in something as quirky as paying bills. The principles of Lean still apply.

I hope this is helpful.

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