WNY nonprofits reduce waste by learning the Lean way

Participants in TCIE’s Certified Lean Professional program included employees of Baker Victory Services, Community Services for the Developmentally Disabled, and People Inc.

By Tracy Puckett

Maureen Brown has held a number of procurement roles over the last 30 years. Each has revealed numerous inefficiencies, prompting her to voice concerns about wasted time, money and resources.

A certification course from UB’s Center for Industrial Effectiveness (TCIE) is empowering Brown to move beyond asking questions. The director of purchasing at Baker Victory Services (BVS) is now equipped with data-driven, problem-solving tools to derive and implement solutions.

Brown and 13 employees from various departments of BVS, Community Services for the Developmentally Disabled (CSDD) and People Inc. came together as part of a non-profit consortium to learn the Lean methodology and how its approach to reducing waste can better serve clients.

UB’s 39-hour Certified Lean Professional (CLP) course featured theory, reality-based examples, class interactions and networking opportunities. Certification required passing an exam and successfully completing an individual improvement project. Projects ranged from reducing the time of preparing a room for a new resident to eliminating paperwork errors and subsequent rework.

“The return on investment in this partnership has been invaluable,” said Lindsay Goodenough, CSDD’s vice president of administrative services. “We see a change in how our managers work together, a change in problem solving and how we address challenges in our field.”

Such challenges include an ever-shifting landscape where every penny counts, a reduction of government funding, and a bevy of mandated regulations, all while maintaining— if not elevating—services. These forces are encouraging the non-profit sector to increasingly adopt a corporate business mindset and embrace continuous improvement techniques like Lean.

Cognizant of financial limits, TCIE introduced the agencies to the Workforce Development Institute of Western New York. BVS and CSDD received a grant from the institute to partially cover training costs.

People Inc. incurred the full expense, and added more participants upon reviewing curriculum and considering the course’s potential.

“The industry is changing and resources are growing tighter,” said Bonnie Sloma, senior vice president at People Inc. “We have to find creative ways to do things to improve the lives of the individuals we serve.”