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I think this question came up in a conversation with a friend...we were discussing how serving lunch could be made more efficient.

They could _____ the lunch line by doing this or that.

The only word we could think of was "efficienize", but I doubt that's an actual word. Any ideas?

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"efficien[s]ize" is a great example of a word that should be in the english language because it fills a hole not quite filled by alternatives, but people refuse to add it/use it, because it's not "proper" english. –  Jonathan. Oct 1 '11 at 11:46
    
@Jonathon: What about the accepted answer? That fits it exactly. –  Arlen Beiler Oct 5 '11 at 21:28
    
I know you're looking for a single word, but I would just say: They could make the lunch line more efficient by doing this or that. –  Lynn Nov 29 '11 at 15:55
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Actually I came up with the exact same question and concluded identically that there really is no word for it exactly. I was envisioning a word to mean to make more efficient again: namely, to “re-efficientise” something. So I am coining a new word: to efficientize something! You like it?! I guess my second suggestion would be the originally suggested efficienize. The other words don’t quite cut it with respect to the intention of the meaning we are trying to portray. –  user33612 Jan 13 '13 at 2:14
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5 Answers

up vote 47 down vote accepted

I think that the word you're looking for here is optimize:

From Merriam-Webster: to make as perfect, effective, or functional as possible

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Damn you sirrah! The word is optimise! :) –  FumbleFingers Sep 30 '11 at 20:46
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For me as non-native, 'optimize' has a different meaning. As you say: as effective as possible, whereas the question was more effective, not a optimum state. Isn't that something different? –  bonifaz Sep 30 '11 at 21:14
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Optimizing is the process of making something optimal. So to optimize is to make more efficient. –  Christopher Rayl Sep 30 '11 at 21:18
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Optimizing in this sense is a little casual. Optimum means the best possible. The OPs goal was just to make it better, not necessarily optimal. The last 10% of optimal is often more costly than it is worth. Nonetheless, you are certainly correct that it has come to mean simply "make more effective." –  Fraser Orr Sep 30 '11 at 22:09
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Not to rock the boat, but I disagree. Optimisation is the (usually incremental) process of making something optimal, but when you optimise something it's usually done in discrete steps. So, the process by which something becomes optimal is optimisation, but it doesn't have to be optimal until the end of the process. –  Andy F Oct 1 '11 at 13:50
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Streamline

  1. (transitive) To design and construct the contours of a vehicle etc. so as to offer the least resistance to its flow through a fluid.
  2. (transitive, by extension) To simplify or organize a process in order to increase its efficiency.
  3. (transitive) To modernise.
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In the context of making a lunch line more efficient, I'd go with this word. –  Gnawme Sep 30 '11 at 20:33
    
I'd argue against using this word, as it's been frequently abused as a buzzword. –  IQAndreas Dec 25 '13 at 12:04
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Why not just use the word 'improve'?
Seems to fit in quite nicely in the sentence:
"They could improve the lunch line by doing this or that."

I think that optimize doesn't quite capture the original intent (and it doesn't sound as good to me): "They could optimize the lunch line by doing this or that."

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I don't think "improve" is specific enough for this request. –  Rae Oct 1 '11 at 15:09
    
+1 Optimize implies there are no further improvements to be made, whereas improve leaves room for more. –  Highly Irregular Jun 20 '12 at 2:25
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A great word for this is kaizen, a word originating in Japanese production improvement systems. It is not all that common in general English, but in operations and production systems it has become quite a common term.

FYI, it originally was a noun and sometimes an adjective, however, it has transformed in English to be usable as a verb too. "Could you guys kaizen the production line?"

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Is using kaizen as a verb like using ask as a noun? –  fluffy Oct 1 '11 at 0:43
    
@fluffy: I've only ever seen it as a noun, not a verb. –  Lynn Nov 29 '11 at 15:53
    
Are you sure about that? Do people ask you things, or do they ask you what "the ask" is? (Or were you referring to kaizen? In which case that was exactly my point.) –  fluffy Nov 30 '11 at 17:15
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I would argue that "optimize" is close but not exactly the same. To say that a company "optimized its procedures" is not the same as saying that a "company rendered its procedures more efficient", because the latter implies results whereas the former only implies changes made which will hopefully yield results. In the example given by the OP, "optimize" works just fine. But in other scenarios, "render more efficient" or "increase the efficiency of" would give a more accurate meaning.

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protected by RegDwigнt Jan 13 '13 at 10:49

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