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Applying lean principles in service environments
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Lean Services is the application of lean principles in COMMERCIAL service environments. Lean principle are applicable in all working environments, whether operational or support in nature. All areas of the company can benefit from the application of lean principles, ensuring lower costs, higher quality, and better service & delivery.

Specific considerations for implementing lean in service environments are listed below. If you'd like to comment on or add to these considerations, or if you have specific questions, a form is provided at the bottom of this page.

There is a necessary distinction between COMMERCIAL service environments and INDUSTRY service environments. 'Commercial' service environments are those companies which offer services to businesses, and to the general public. 'Industrial' service environments are those internal company departments which provide support to profit generating departments. Examples of commercial service environments include:

  • Air travel providers
  • Cell phone service providers
  • Cable, satellite TV service providers
  • Secondary mail service providers (FedEx, UPS, etc...)
  • Full service and fast food restaurants
  • Government agencies and offices
  • Any other service operation which sought out by paying customers
The distinction between commercial and industrial service environments is an important one. Without this distinction (and this is all too often the case), the concept of INTERNAL CUSTOMERS is used in order to justify otherwise wasteful activities. This has the effect of institutionalizing waste, based on subjective requirements. The lean definition of WASTE has to be understood from the CUSTOMER's perspective, as those actions for which THE CUSTOMER DOES NOT VALUE, AND IS UNWILLING TO PAY FOR. Of course, certain functions (payroll, maintenance, worker safety/health, environmental concerns) are, by definition, waste. In the lean context, they are non-value-added/essential (NVA/E). We cannot eliminate them, but since we recognize them as NVA/E, we should be constantly looking for ways to streamline them, reducing costs while increasing service levels.

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