Lean Services

While lean government and lean healthcare technically fall under this category, we consider lean service organizations to be those operating in areas like call centers, retail, hotels, restaurants, offices, banking, and so on. In such environments, there is a direct interaction with the customer, which should be seen as an opportunity to get real-time feedback on our service rather than a nuisance we have to deal with (if you have ever spoken with a customer care representative, you know what this means).

A common problem that practitioners trying to bring lean to services encounter is the difficulty to identify “the work” – whereas in manufacturing the product is in front of everyone’s eyes, in service organizations it is often hidden behind paperwork or a computer screen. Once the work is clearly visible, however, the opportunities for improvement are plentiful. To date, we have seen thousands of organizations striving to lean out the service they provide customers: from restaurants chains in the United States and China to a group of bakeries in Barcelona, from call centers to hotels, the application of lean services ideas can have an extraordinary impact on our economies. Especially if we consider that the service industry accounts for more than three-fifths of the global GDP and employs more than one-third of the global workforce.

Lean thinking is naturally a fit for the service industry, because of its focus on constantly delighting customers and on providing them with value-adding products.

Quality first means more sales

CASE STUDY – This insurtech venture has found in Lean Thinking a way to tackle its many scaling issues. It’s grown from two to fifty-five people in less than four years, ultimately thanks to a strong focus on quality.

An experiment with cellular thinking

INTERVIEW – Today’s story takes us to Iceland, where a senior leader in a utility company introduced cellular thinking to her team in a bid to improve flexibility and better working conditions.

Down with batching

FEATURE – To speed up the issuance of insurance policies, a SulAmérica department decided to move away from big batches and start working in flow.

The ball is in our court

CASE STUDY – The author, who leads the CI team in a large real estate company, discusses the lean transformation of the business and role of the improvement team in it.

Staying ready in uncertain times

NOTES FROM THE (VIRTUAL) GEMBA – Throughout the lockdown, this car-selling business has never lost its focus on people development. The author learns how this approach is helping the firm make the most of the crisis.

Spaghetti charts and physical distancing

FEATURE – A simple lean tool can help us create safer flows in our businesses, a critical challenge as we plan our return to work with new physical distancing measures in place.

Leveraging lean learnings to face the crisis

NOTES FROM THE (VIRTUAL) GEMBA – This week, the author chats with an innovative insurance company as it relies on its lean learnings to ensure business continuity and switch to remote working during the Covid-19 crisis.

Panic buying and the Coronavirus

FEATURE – With the Covid-19 emergency, people across the world have been stockpiling on household products, exposing the shortcoming of batching-prone supply chains.

Sorting out sourcing

FEATURE – The Sourcing team at insurance company SulAmérica tells us about how they were able to transform the process in their department in order to become more efficient in dealing with their workload.

Predictable vs unpredictable work

FEATURE – It is a common misconception that our work is too unpredictable to fit into a standardized approach. The author debunks this myth. 

Grievances first

NOTES FROM THE GEMBA – How do you kick off a lean journey? This French company has chosen to begin by analyzing and tackling each customer complaint.

A 15-year journey of people engagement

CASE STUDY – Here’s the story of a mature lean company from Michigan. The author tells us about Zingerman’s Mail Order’s lean transformation, their challenges and their successes.

Extracting waste from our process

CASE STUDY – In a Brazilian insurance company, a team worked hard to streamline the revision of dental claims – a great example of Lean Thinking in an administrative process. 

Attorney at lean

CASE STUDY – A boutique law firm in Milan has initiated a lean transformation to turn around its processes, improve service to its clients and make life easier for the team.  

Re-start with a clean slate

CASE STUDY – From client and supplier to partners-in-lean: how solving a problem together transformed the relationship between a Dutch hospital and the laundry supplying clean garments to it.

When lean takes off

NOTES FROM THE GEMBA – The author visits the Parisian airport of Orly to learn about a pilot project (pun intended) that aims to tackle the late departure of flights using lean thinking.

Moving forward

INTERVIEW – This moving company in Singapore has taken its first steps down the lean road, reminding us that translating your strategy into small, actionable improvements people can make at the gemba is the way to a transformation.

Lean logistics for better customer service

CASE STUDY – Logistics can be the key to achieving success and creating a competitive advantage in a company. This case study tells the story of a port terminal in Brazil that has used lean to achieve significant gains in managing its road flow.