Stow -- Eliminating waste and making city government more efficient can first require attention to "excruciating detail," says Ken Trenner.
Stow's economic development director knows this because he acted as the city's Lean for Government program coordinator while employees were undergoing training in recent months.
It is designed to teach employees to look at how they do things through comprehensive "process mapping," said Trenner, and find ways to remove the fat.
"The goal is to eliminate waste," he said.
City Council approved an ordinance last April to enter into a contract with the University of Akron to provide the onsite training at a cost of $51,000, with 90 percent reimbursed by an Ohio Local Government Innovation Fund grant.
Mayor Sara Drew spoke about the program in her state-of-the-city address to Council in January.
"Lean brings efficiency, but for me, the most important thing is it empowers our employees to take a look at what they are tasked with doing and make it better," she said. "Look at what their jobs are and question could we do it differently? Should we do it differently? Why aren't we doing it differently?"
Several employees then provided a presentation on one project designed to improve the way building inspections are handled.
"We have reduced our process from approximately 103 steps to something like 60 steps," said Chief Building Inspector Tom Catalano.
This is being done through electronic means by having inspectors call in results to be entered into the computer, with the hope of eventually equipping inspectors with portable devices to enter results of inspections while in the field.
"The idea here is to eliminate paper work and redundancy," said Catalano. "We feel like we have done a pretty good job through this process."
Trenner said March 3 that there are three other projects to come out of Lean for Government that are in various stages of development.
"One involved processing requisitions in the purchasing department," he said, adding that the goal was to "decrease the time it takes to release a purchase order by 50 percent."
"The time was actually reduced by 90 percent," said Trenner. "The actual work for the city by the vendor can be done much faster."
Purchasing Supervisor Lisa Jarvis said to be more precise, it was a "93 percent cut."
"We took steps out of the process," she said. "Some steps were streamlined."
She said this includes making pertinent documentation readily available digitally to eliminate what needs to be printed out so that employees can see it when needed.
"We found it helpful in many departments," she said. "When you're done, the savings in time makes it worth it."
Trenner said another project involves the processing of parking violations.
"Citizens now receive [violation and payment notices] in a more timely manner. The process has become more efficient," said Trenner.
He said that another project, looking at the processing of police records, is still in the works.
"They're still looking at that to see what they can do with it," he said.
Trenner and Drew both say that the advantages are not just about projects now in the works, but changing the way the city does business far into the future.
"It's about looking at processes and eliminating waste and changing the culture," said Trenner.
"It truly is something that will continue long into the future," said Drew during her address, "long after I am not here, long after the employees that are currently working on the Lean processes are no longer employed in the City of Stow because it was like a snowball rolling down hill. You gather a little momentum and it gets bigger and faster and before you know it, it's a tidal wave you can't escape from."