Transferable Skills – from the car to the office, shop, lab……

Lean Service

Lean Manufacturing which started in the automotive industry, with principle of removing the 7 wastes and it’s raft of associated process improvement tools including 5S, OEE, KANBANs, JIT, Line Balancing, Demand Management, Six Sigma, Poke Yoke, and Voice of the Customer (market research) has slowly been making its way across sectors and functions of manufacturing and non-manufacturing  (Services including professional) organisations as a business improvement strategy in recent years.

Is it any surprise when examples such as Lockheed Martin found that 75% of the improvement projects in one 4,000 employee plant, actually took place outside of manufacturing and generated $5m of savings in the second year alone – including reducing purchasing costs by over 50% and purchase order processing by 40%.  (Michael L. George “Lean Six Sigma for Service” 2003 p5)

And GE CEO Jeff Immelt reckoned that by applying the principles to their sales process they could save $50 billion by applying lean to their sales functions alone! (“Growth as a Process” an interview with Jeff Immelt, Harvard Business Review June 2006, pp 60-70)

Lean with…….

So now we are finding more and more examples of Lean Service, Lean Office, Lean Call Centres right through to Lean Laboratories, Lean Accounts and Lean Retail. You name it and you can find examples of lean thinking beginning to invade and succeed in all functions and sectors of business.

If you’d rather sit back and listen to an excellent insight into lean service then we can recommend this episode of Radio 4s “In Business” on LEAN SERVICE, hosted by PETER DAY, it focuses on lean in the Service sector (actually it’s the retail (Amazon), call centre (GEM) and financial sectors (GE Money)). 

When you get to the website click on the “listen to this programme in full” button 

All of the examples we have found about the above show, to one degree or another that lean will deliver;

  • lower costs,
  • higher profits,
  • faster customer response times,
  • higher quality,
  • a better customer experience,
  • and a more motivated workforce.

Lean does this by inviting ALL staff to confront the wastes in their jobs, whether it be

  • excess stock,
  • excess raw materials (work in progress, paperwork to be signed, e-mails unactioned),
  • excessive transportation (work/documents between sites, individuals, departments),
  • excessive moving (to complete work i.e. to photocopiers, post rooms etc),
  • wasting time (waiting for materials, decisions, meetings, approvals),
  • product or service features that the customer doesn’t value,
  • and producing poor quality solutions.

This approach, to include all staff isn’t surprising when you consider that at the heart of the principles of lean are;

  • to do only what your customers value, by default staff stop having to do all the things that they know (they get the feedback from customers) don’t add value!
  • and to continuously improve what you do, something you can surely only do by ensuring all the staff experiences are utilised to identify improvements.

The next blog that we issue will be on Lean in the NHS (Lean Healthcare), we’ve come across a video and a audio file and some practices on the benefits of implementing Lean in this sector, including information on the real GOLDEN HOUR, which is nothing to do with Simon Bates (for those old enough) or even Chris Moyles.

Be aware! moving lean from manufacturing into another function or sector isn’t about just taking the tools of Lean and applying them. So ending up with a desk looking like this one below really ISN’T the only answer.

 (This picture was published in a North East Paper and if you type “HMRC + lean” into a search engine you’ll get a plethora of stories about a lean office implementation in HMRC, which appeared  to follow the path of taking manufacturing tools and just transferring them). 

The taped lines on the desk show where office equipment should be placed

If you would like to investigate how lean could be applied to your organisation or function then feel free to contact us at or and we’d be happy to talk to you.

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