Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Lean Services

The website from the Lean Enterprise Institute has slides for a presentation about applying “lean principles” to optimize services (free registration required).

“Lean principles”? Manufacturers have been applying them for years. The main idea is to make production more “productive” by getting rid of all the steps in the process –or “waste”- that don’t add any value to the product itself. For example, soldering two parts of a bicycle together adds value to the bike, but moving the uncompleted cycle around the factory floor from one workstation to another other does not. In lean lingo, the waste is called “muda”. Obviously, getting rid of the steps that don’t add value to the product or service makes the process faster… and guess what? It also saves money!

From the customer perspective, the main difference is a faster service, and because there are fewer steps in the process, there are fewer “opportunities” to make a mistake, which improves quality.

Next time you go to a fast-food place, take a look on how they do things. One of my favorite examples is getting the soda machine out into the dining area where customers can help themselves. It makes the food ordering and fulfillment processes much faster and cleaner, and the consumers get a sense of choice and abundance.

But keep in mind, some fast food won’t help your own body get leaner.