Lean at Denver Water

Delivering value to customers

Denver Water is committed to providing a high-quality water supply, a resilient and reliable system, and excellent customer service. In order to support this mission, employees are looking inward at processes and asking, “Can this be done better?”

Lean methodologies, developed by Toyota, were brought to Denver Water in 2011 to give employees the tools to assess the issues that affect their work, and empower them to make improvements. Lean is all about delivering value to customers and minimizing tasks that do not directly add value for those customers.

How Lean Works

One of the main principles of Lean is to continuously find ways to improve. Denver Water uses Lean-supported rapid improvement events, “Just do its” and projects to accomplish objectives.

Employees can quickly streamline a process by participating in a rapid improvement event, which is a weeklong event in which groups of eight to 10 employees tackle a specific process. These events have been tremendously successful. Since January 2012, rapid improvement events resulted in savings to Denver Water of $4.3 million, and that doesn’t include the unmeasurable improvements in safety and morale accomplished by these events.

“Just do its” identify problems with known solutions. These solutions take less than a day to establish, and the work affects only a few people. Projects, on the other hand, require long-term implementation processes that involve many people, and may require capital resources.

Lean is transforming Denver Water from within, and it relies on Denver Water’s internal experts to make improvements and changes. Changes are not decided on by management or outside entities — but by employees.