Streamline the accounting workflow

The focal point of many process flows within a business is the accounting department, which can result in a massive paper jam within that department. The problem can be particularly acute when some employees are comfortable having large amounts of unfiled documents in their work areas. The following methods can be used to eliminate items that can impede the flow of work within the accounting department:

  • Remove unnecessary office equipment, such as printers, copiers, and computer terminals
  • Remove unnecessary office furniture, such as unused desks, chairs, and filing cabinets
  • Remove unnecessary wall items, such as whiteboards and cork boards
  • Remove unnecessary office supplies being stored by employees in their work areas

A possible outcome of this removal process is the decision to completely remove some unneeded cubicles, as well as office doors, and possibly even the removal of entire offices in favor of a more open floor plan. The result should be a more open area whose contents are more easily viewable.

    Here are several additional notes regarding the streamlining of the accounting workflow:

    • Pending pile. Before completely removing items from the accounting area, first leave them in a holding area for a few days, to see if the accounting staff might actually need them. Then move the items back into storage or dispose of them.
    • Deconstruction. In some cases where a work area is completely overwhelmed with paper, it may make sense to strip the room right down to the carpet, review all items removed, and then reassemble the area, only putting back what is really needed. All other items are eliminated or placed in storage.
    • Frequency. The level of cleanup advocated here should be engaged in at least on a quarterly basis. An annual review lets paperwork pile up too much, and so should be considered too long an interval.
    • Work flow analysis. Create a layout of the accounting department and note on it the paths taken by employees during the work day. Doing so will reveal ways to eliminate obstructions and reposition employees to shorten their travel paths.
    • Localized equipment. It may be possible to reduce travel times by eliminating centrally-located printers and copiers in favor of smaller units that can be located adjacent to each employee. Of particular interest may be the use of small scanners at each workstation, which can be used by all employees to digitize documents.
    • Off-site storage. A large amount of the paperwork stored in the accounting department relates to the prior year, and so is rarely accessed. Consider shifting these documents completely out of the accounting area and into off-site storage.
    • Document carts. Rather than having employees travel to filing cabinets throughout the day, provide them with document carts, so that they can load up on documents in one trip and then stay in their offices for the rest of the day.
    • Eliminate cubicles. A cubicle is a fixed edifice within which employees hide. For better teaming arrangements, consider ripping out the cubicles and replacing them with desks, which can be clustered to match work assignments. For example, the desks of all customer billings staff can be grouped in one place.
    • Localize supply storage. If supplies are currently kept in a distant storage locker, move the most-used items to a location within the accounting area, so that it is readily accessible to the staff.

    In short, there are a multitude of methods available for streamlining the accounting workflow. The preceding concepts are only the most common of the techniques available.

    Related Courses

    Constraint Management 
    Lean Accounting Guidebook 
    Project Management