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Lean: not just for manufacturing businesses!

Friday 20 July 2018 12.34pm

If you are part of a service organisation, how often have you heard someone say: “We can’t do Lean – that’s just for manufacturing businesses! We’re not some kind of widget-making assembly line! Our processes are long and complex; every transaction is unique and takes place in our people’s minds or behind their computer screens. There’s no way we could use Lean here!”

Having spent many years helping different types of service organisations implement Lean, I have heard a version of this statement many, many times. And over the years, I have come to realise that it is precisely because service processes do tend to have long cycle times, many complex variables, multiple decision points and interactions with a variety of computer systems that makes Lean philosophy and tools such a great fit. I would argue that Lean offers huge benefits for service industries. Service processes are not physically observable so Lean tools such as visual management and techniques that specifically develop team members’ creative problem-solving and critical thinking abilities to the fullest would be particularly beneficial.

Lean isn’t just about manufacturing. It is about standardising work processes to make problems visible. It’s about developing your team members’ critical thinking ability so that they can solve problems and improve work processes.

So the next time someone in your service organisation tries to tell you that “Lean is just for manufacturing,” you’ll know how to respond. Even better, please refer them to me or ask them to submit a question below and I’d be only too happy to demonstrate how Lean could be great for their business.

Andy Conway

Business Process Improvement Lead


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