University of Central Oklahoma (United States)

Contributed by Scott DeBoard

The University of Central Oklahoma (LJCO; is a state-supported metropolitan university located in Edmond, Oklahoma, a suburb of Oklahoma City. One of the regional universities in the state system of higher education, UCO serves approximately 16,000 undergraduate and graduate students. UCO began its Lean journey in 2001. Facing budget cuts and the prospect of further burdening students and families with offsetting tuition increases, the Executive VP of Administration concluded that implementing the Lean University™ process improvement initiative at UCO, with the help of local experts in Lean manufacturing and the services of a Lean consulting firm, could eliminate non-value-added activities (i.e., waste) from key business processes, and cost savings and cost avoidance could be reallocated to reduce university expenses.

UCO’s Lean University™ began with an informational meeting for all administrative staff that described Lean and the need for active employee participation. This was followed by a 1-day Lean training program, tailored to higher education and built around four key steps:

Step 1: Identify the Opportunities - Complete a university-wide diagnostic search for issues, problems, and opportunities.

Step 2: Solution Design - Create a blueprint for success that involves all employees: training, mapping, and planning.

Step 3: Implementation - Use rapid improvement workshop (i.e., kaizen) events, core teams, and metrics to implement and illustrate change.

Step 4: Continuous Improvement - Monitor performance after projects are completed.

The initial Lean project prioritized for improvement was the work order process in facilities management, based on acknowledged delays in the completion of work orders and its impact on all campus constituencies.

Lean training was followed by a 2-day workshop on “value-stream mapping” that taught individuals how to document actual “current state” process maps and served as the foundation for a “kaizen event” to improve the work order process. An external Lean consultant and a LJCO Lean Management Coordinator facilitated a 5-day kaizen that resulted in an action plan that (1) prioritized Lean solutions to improve the process and (2) identified Lean metrics that measure the effectiveness of the process. The kaizen team began implementing prioritized Lean solutions and 6 months later, proposed additional solutions as part of Lean’s continuous improvement efforts to meet customer expectations. Table 3-4 provides a performance scoreboard for the work order process at UCO, using key performance metrics identified by the Lean team; the last column documents the substantial improvements achieved.

Table 3.4 Performance Scorecard: Lean Improvements in Work Order Process







Six Months after




# Pieces of paper generated per work order




Annual paper cost




Travel path of work order

1,265 ft.

253 ft.


Average # of touches




Average # days waiting until work order is assigned

24.1 days

2.6 days


% of work orders submitted by email




The clear success of the Lean initiative is captured in the UCO’s technical report. Becoming a Lean University™-.

The first Facilities Management project was able to save more than $14,000.00 in annual paper cost with only one week’s worth of work ... The overall morale and work ethic of employees in areas where changes have been made has improved significantly ...

Students have already begun to see the positive impact on services offered ... Faculty members whose responsibilities include the role of building monitor have once again become engaged in the process.9

UCO’s Lean LJniversity™ program (, spanning almost 20years and maintained over several transitions in senior leadership, continues to improve customer satisfaction by eliminating waste and improving flow in a wide range of critical administrative, service, and support processes: student housing room inventory process, graduate college application process, new employee hire process, travel expense management process, grade change process, purchase order process, and many more. In addition to significant improvements in university performance (e.g., increased productivity, cost savings), participants in Lean initiatives feel more empowered (i.e., they have the responsibility to improve their work processes) and accountable (i.e., they can see the impact of their efforts on customer satisfaction and the financial position of the university), resulting in improved employee outcomes (e.g., higher job satisfaction, reduced frustration).

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