WCTC helps Racine County become more efficient

March 3, 2014

From journaltimes.com: “County hires help to trim expenses” — RACINE COUNTY — For any organization that’s been around a while, it can be difficult to change its way of doing things, no matter how burdensome or tedious its operations become.

Racine County government is no different. Only in its case, outdated and time-consuming processes can mean wasting public money or government employees’ time.

About two years ago, Racine County Executive Jim Ladwig created a “lean government” initiative to trim waste out of county government. The effort isn’t about reducing the workforce, he said, but delivering services in a better way and possibly saving money along the way.

Now, the county is ramping up its efforts. About 50 staffers and department heads packed a courthouse conference room last week to hear from Pat Dolan, a Waukesha County Technical College instructor who works with governments across the state on making operations more efficient.

A smaller group of about 20 employees will get more extensive training from WCTC to facilitate projects throughout county government. The county is paying WCTC just less than $11,000 out of its training budget.

“What I love about it is it’s not a top-down type system,” Ladwig said. “We have people on the front line, we have supervisors, we have department heads. All of them are involved in this … we have a ton of talent throughout the county and they have a lot of good ideas. It’s important that we cultivate that.”

Principles of WCTC’s “lean” instruction originated in Toyota’s manufacturing operations and have been applied to workplaces of all kinds, Dolan said.

His goal is to train employees to develop a “set of glasses” that will help them identify and get rid of waste. Ideally, it’s a mindset that becomes part of the job and not extra work, Dolan said.

The county has already benefited, Ladwig said. Its biggest success was a project that reduced employees’ purchasing requests by 3,500 and saved the county between $50,000 and $100,000, Ladwig said.

Other projects, like improving the laundry process and supply room at Ridgewood Care Center, are smaller. But even those types of changes free up employees’ time and make them more productive, Ladwig said.

That reflects the incentive employees have to buy into the initiative — it’s designed to make their lives easier. Lean government isn’t solely about cost savings, Ladwig said.

“It’s really just about improving the process and improving the service we provide,” Ladwig said. “It’s empowering (employees) to change the way we do business.”

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