Despite the similarity of some lean service principles and lean manufacturing, lean service does not have a single or specific model that can be taken as reference in any situation or area of service like standard steps, on the contrary, there are several models which can be applied according to the nature of the service.
Such statement can be justified by the broad variation of the nature of services. For instance, there are services related to hospitals, logistics, food production, food consumption, air transport of passengers or cargo, information technology and so on. The service area, differently from the manufacturing area, strongly depends on human factors, which is responsible for the prospection, execution and delivery of service to the customer, who expects service with high quality.
The idea is not that the customer shops less but shops with less difficulty and disruption.
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In this context, companies should adopt practices to eliminate inefficiency in production processes, and it is now the moment to take initiatives to deliver consumption experience more efficiently and with less sacrifice. Although these principles were created having the final consumer in mind, they are perfectly adaptable for all kinds of customers since companies belong to a supply chain. Any supplier or customer can be targeted to receive lean initiatives. In a company-to-company relationship, some examples reinforce the use of lean initiatives. A furniture manufacturer, for example, knows that it should not delivery tables alone, even if the factory was not able to manufacture chars on time.
The lean service operations must offer what customer wants, where he wants it. Supermarkets build branches stores where customers are and connect them through distribution centers — strategically located. This increases speed and agility on the product distribution. It is easy to see that these retailers are using large supermarkets megastores located out of downtowns, regular supermarkets in neighborhoods, small markets are spread for all city, and on-line markets for internet sales.
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Lean logistics must be up-to-date with new techniques to increase performance especially delivery time and customer satisfaction. But often this is a two-way highway. The focus is to reduce aircraft time on ground. For this, customers are partially involved in some activities to reduce this time, for example, just before landing, the crew requests all passengers to collect their trash and magazines.
Besides reducing ground time it help reduce expenses with cleaning. Another lean logistics strategy at airports is the boarding time. Passengers located at different portions of the aircraft are called at different time intervals. In hospitals, lean is applied to reduce the waiting time. They have rules and procedures specific to different types patients and procedures, such as for first aid, surgery, tomography, X-ray, lesions, and etc.
Lean logistics in this business form team responsible to precisely identify each case, quality performance indicators are used to help find possible problems, and surgery tools, tomography equipments, rooms needed. Once analyzed the principles of lean service, a second step is a study to verify the companies that have been using the lean philosophy in services and the improvements being obtained. Around twenty-five companies were studied, from large fast food chains, financial groups, hospitals to a safari park Table 5.
Results can be described as based on tradeoffs between efficiency and operations with low cost and flexibility, thus increasing human resources management and focus on customer and on quality. Another company that had significant improvements and should be highlighted in this analysis is Jefferson Pilot Financial Insurance Company Swank, The improvements, reductions and gains are not only financial results when applying the principles of lean service, but also positive reflections on quality perveived by clients Table 5.
It is possible to verify that the use of lean service principles are rapidly appearing in several companies in different areas of activities. Results are increasingly tangible to the organization and often intangible to customers.
Nevertheless, some authors have presented models to define actions within the service area, for example, Lovelock , who argued about focusing on specific service categories and proposed five schemes for classifying services, from services classes to delivery methods. In order to define the areas of possible services action, Schmenner suggested the use of a matrix with four classes of service: manufacturing services, shopping services, mass services and professional services.
This matrix has great relevance, helping define and implement the best lean service tool or principle to specific service class. Some areas within the service sector that have mostly applied lean principles are health, finance sector, banks and insurance. The health sector, mainly with hospitals, is the area that have mostly applied lean principles.
According to Araujo et al. Generaly a hospital can be seen as a large company with multiple services in it, for example, drug pharmacies, warehouses, restaurants, safety, lobby and patients release area, surgical centers, hotels and others. The potential for improvement in service quality and cost reduction is enormous in the healthcare area.
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This is an area that acts with a market that can generate immediate profits or losses and where competition is rapidly acting upon customers. An example is a process to finance a vehicle: the customer shops and the financial institution has only a few minutes to approve or not the credit, but during this time, a series of information must be collected and analyzed. Lean service enters with its principles acting in control, autonomation, agility and continuous improvement, ensuring the process a considerable stability and continuity.
Similarly to the financial sector, the insurance area also has a high turnover of processes and approvals within its activities, and perhaps that is why lean service, seeking to improve the work process, has been highly studied within these organizations. Table 6 sums up some of the service areas using lean philosophy in their processes.
It is important to know the tools that are being adapted and applied to lean service. For better detailing, besides checking all the tools, Table 7 shows implementations of the four most commonly used tools: value stream mapping VSM , production balancing heijunka , just in time JIT and 5S standardization. For a common comprehension of the lean tools, the research addressed tool as a group of techniques developed and applied from the lean philosophy, these tools applied to lean service are quickly explained next. To learn about the current state of operation and to propose further improvement, it is first necessary to carry out the value stream mapping in the production process applied to services, because this way it is possible to view all stages in the process.
Even in the service sector, the application of value stream maps is of great relevance, because most of the companies mentioned by the authors used VSM to improve processes because, similarly to manufacturing, the service sector also has direct relation with development, preparation and delivery of service to customers, and these steps, activities or processes are easily mapped using VSM concepts.
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It leads to efficient resources use, inventory reduction, downtime and high and high costs elimination, hence directing the creation of processes flexibility. Using a balanced operation helps a company to develop new ways of better buying from suppliers, better use of equipment, and more efficient use, inclusion of new processes and better team planning. Without balancing production is not possible to achieve JIT. Practical applications of production balancing in services are seen in hospitals setting the correct patients flow through service and surgeries , in restaurants avoiding disruptions and delays in serving meals , in the financial sector balancing the distribution of credit approval processes , and so on.
Next tool is JIT that is more considered an effect caused by the application of several tools. According to Slack et al. It comes as a consequence of the use of a balanced production. The customer will have his needs met on time and only for what is needed it is a pull system, triggered by demand.
JIT allows organizations to deliver services more efficiently and with reduced costs, since it intends to provide just the right amount, at the right time, at the place determined and using the minimum capacity from facilities, equipment, materials and people. JIT has a number of tools and techniques that provide operating conditions, such as Kanban Slack et al.
Another tool often mentioned in the literature is the use of standardization and 5S. Although it may seem something that is already inherent in organizations, this is one of the issues organizations end up not paying much attention to and, in fact, this is one of the tools that will ensure that the obtained improvement can stay stable.
Especially in service areas with expressive movement of people and materials, standardization and 5S can help ensure process stability. A summary of tools that have been applied to lean service is given at Table 7. This article is one of the first known researches to present a bibliographic study about the creation and evolution of lean service, with principles and practices oriented to the services sector. A major benefit of this work was to present what are the principles of lean service in an organized way, the companies that are applying lean service and the best tools and practices applied in the implementation of lean service.
By analyzing the results, it can be said that lean does not have a single model of tools or practices and standards for services. Despite the lack of a standard set for which, when and where to use a lean tool in services, it can be seen that the best lean manufacturing practices, when applied to services, can generate large economic and financial results, as well as in the behavior of people.
Obviously, like any change process, the applications of lean in services also suffer high resistance to their application. However, as shown in some articles, and specifically by Swank , this is another barrier to be overcome that if not treated with care will compromise the operation. But successfully attracting those who have been resistant to the lean thinking will become a factor that in time will be favorable to new lean implementations. The results cannot pass unnoticed. Despite possible limitations, one can affirm that lean philosophy in services has proved to be very positive.
In fact, none of the works researched mentioned significant drawbacks or brought suggestions to not implement lean in business services. On the contrary, several cases in service companies showed large success obtained with lean practices and principles — and at increasing rate of implementations. Future researches shall study in more details each business service sector to where lean has been or can be applied.
Areas such as health, government public administration , logistics, offices, teaching, retail and others have been applying lean practices. One can now do a specific study in each of these areas and translate the benefits from one service area to another.
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Applying lean manufacturing principles to information intensive services.