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.

documentary Halfway Toyota lean thinking

The people-led lean turnaround of a chain of car dealerships

DOCUMENTARY – In PL’s first ever documentary, we share the story of a chain of car dealerships in Africa. Watch and learn how people development and lean leadership made for one of the best turnarounds you’ll ever encounter.
Xibei restaurant lean coaching

How lean coaching changed the culture of a restaurant chain

FEATURE – An approach based on coaching and experiments is transforming the way restaurant chain Xibei works with its people to improve service and dishes: the story of Chef Liang and his Kongfu fish.
gemba walk Tokheim Michael Ballé

Understanding what really happens on a gemba walk

FEATURE – Lean encourages us to go to the gemba as much as we can, but what should we actually do when walking the workspace? It turns out it’s not so much about doing as it is about thinking.
Lean thinking at DBS Bank

The impressive lean turnaround of DBS Bank in Singapore

CASE STUDY – Over the past few years, DBS Bank in Singapore has undergone an extraordinary turnaround inspired by lean. Here, the COO explains how the company has become the world's "best digital bank".
SNCF train maintenance

Follow the gemba walk in a SNCF train maintenance center

NOTES FROM THE GEMBA - We follow the author on a visit to a train maintenance center in France. Through practical examples and pictures from the gemba, she explains how the center is transforming itself.
Gemba tokheim italia

Focusing on problem solving at the front line

FEATURE – When market changes caused operational problems in their firm, two top managers decided to stick to lean thinking (and a set of specific practices) – learning to focus on what truly matters and letting their people embrace problem-solving.
Stork train bogies

Applying lean thinking to the maintenance of train bogies

FEATURE – A Dutch company that maintains and overhauls train bogies has realized that in order for lean to work, a focus on continuous learning must be established. Here is how they are trying to get there.
nationwide standup meeting

Lean IT at Nationwide: developing 9,000 people

INTERVIEW – At the recent Lean Transformation Summit in Las Vegas, our editor sat down with Nationwide to hear more about the mutual company’s application of lean thinking to IT and how they are working towards getting 9,000 people onboard.
NS NL lean journey HR

Lean thinking in the HR department of Dutch railways

FEATURE – Faced with long lead-times to hire new people and with tens of millions paid in sick leave every year, the HR department of Dutch railway operator NS has turned to lean thinking to set them on the right track for the future.

All by Yourself? Find Your Lean Trojan Horse

FEATURE ARTICLE - Sometimes, introducing lean thinking in an organization can make you feel lonely and hopeless. This article, which draws on the author's experience working with a chain of supermarkets in Siberia, offers some tips on what to do to start off a lean transformation.
xibei restaurants lean thinking

Chinese restaurant chain Xibei adopts the lean methodology

CASE STUDY – An entire restaurant chain going lean is not something you see every day. Coming all the way from China, Xibei's story of cultural change will inspire you to never forget the fundamentals of lean, from standardization to quality.
lean management barcelona bakeries

The amazing growth of a chain of lean bakeries in Spain

CASE STUDY – A very lean system that runs like clockwork and constant attention to customer service enable Barcelona-based 365.café to achieve the impossible: supplying 55 bakeries out of a 650-sqm factory.
new york food bank lean

Lean thinking for the public good: feeding the poor in NYC

INTERVIEW – Lean for social good may sound new to many, but to the CEO of one of America’s largest food banks, the partnership between her organization and Toyota to defeat hunger in the Big Apple seems just natural.
lean banking abn amro

ABN AMRO on its lean program

INTERVIEW - Ahead of this year’s Dutch Lean Summit on April 13-15, host ABN AMRO’s Arlene Bosman, until recently Head of Continuous Improvement, tells us what to look forward to.
lean transformation tokheim

Towards lean service at Tokheim Italia

CASE STUDY - The Italian branch of Tokheim services about 3,000 gas stations in the central and northern parts of Italy. The general manager shares the story of how lean thinking changed everything, for the better.

Service delivery improvement in SA

NEWS - Business school professor Norman Faull is appointed to run a program to improve service delivery across South Africa government.

How to apply lean management in the service industry

INTERVIEW - As the use of lean continues to grow in the service industry, questions abound on how this sector can use the principles and practices effectively.

Change management at an airline catering business using lean thinking

INTERVIEW - Having to adapt to changing customer needs, KLM Catering Services decided to turn to lean thinking, reducing its changeover times and recycling more.