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Posts Tagged ‘Lean Training’

Who ya' gonna call? LSS for Services Tip #2 – Lean Busts Halloween Ghosts

October 19th, 2010 Comments off

Lean Tools Bust Waste in ServicesAs we all know, the birth of Lean (usually with the word “Manufacturing”)  is often considered to be the Toyota Production System. Lean for Service Operations is so new it is defined on Wikipedia as the application of lean manufacturing principles to service operations. Yet when you search using Google the term Lean Manufacturing yields just over 1.5 million results while Lean Services yields a surprising 16.3 million results! The derivative outpaces the original because of its natural application. It’s as if it were always meant to be.
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This natural fit lies in the very nature of manufacturing, service operations and the strengths of lean. Lean was first easily discovered in manufacturing because waste and WIP are easily found. Like in the California gold rush, you could bend down and pick up the nuggets. Manufacturing’s physical nature provides an easy route by which to follow the flow of work. As you move along, you can see raw materials, intermediate stages of inventory and final finished goods. And also along the way, you can see bins of rework and scrap as well as WIP between stations. You physically see the work, the WIP and the waste. Certainly it took brilliance to design what to do with it but the problem was evident.

Lean Six Sigma for Services

our whitepaper that discusses how Lean and/or Six Sigma in a services environment differs from a traditional manufacturing environment

Service operations, however, by their very nature aren’t so easily observed. Work flows are unseen. Information representing WIP are sent over networks. Customers waiting on phones can’t be seen. Time lost is erased with the stroke of a delete key. Service operations, like spirits on a Halloween night, can pass before our eyes without a trace. Enter Lean. Lean with its highly visual tools like value stream maps performs the supernatural. It gives earthly form to the phantom.

As the invisible becomes visible, we make a great discovery – so many service operations occur between functional areas such that they aren’t owned by anyone. We learn that not only is there waste, but there isn’t anyone even worried about it. Thus Lean, with its visual tools, not only provides visibility to work flow, waste and WIP but raises the question of process ownership.

With processes made visible and ownership addressed, the race for improvement forces the question of where to attack first. Very simply put, once non-value added activities are made obvious by the accumulation of waste & WIP, you look for the actions and processes that drive up said waste & WIP. Therefore, when looking for projects, look within or between the processes to which waste and WIP demonstrate the greatest sensitivity. Then heavily rank that projects that improve those processes. They will have the greatest impact on eliminating non-value added activities.

People talk about the amount of low hanging fruit in service operations. It’s important to understand why it is there. People in service operations aren’t fools willing to let waste and WIP drag them down. But they haven’t been able to see the problem and where it resides. With the visibility lean brings, that has changed. And consider us your Ghostbusters! If you would like to discuss the visual tools embodied in lean and how they can help your service operations, please feel free to contact me.

What about Lean in a Services Environment?

September 9th, 2010 Comments off

Everyone knows that Lean came from the manufacturing world, and many aren’t quite sure how, or even IF, it applies to more service oriented environments. Well, rest assured, it does.  I see countless examples of Lean success stories in a broad range of services/transactional domains. Financial close, claims processing, call centers, software development, enterprise software implementations, patient waiting times, logistics and supply chain, order fulfillment  …. The list goes on and on.

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Our Lean QuickStart Presentation here.

Granted, adoption of Lean in services environments has been a little slow, but adoption is happening now at a rapid pace.  Why?  It could just be the natural progression of things, but I think it’s also a function of the business environment since the recession.  Internal efficiency and productivity, doing more with less, and cutting costs are now just the way business is done, the new norm …. And that, my friends, is what Lean is all about.

Lean can deliver big ROI in services processesLean first and foremost is about the elimination of waste, and it defines 7 ( or 8 ) elements of waste. Any activity that doesn’t add value, from the customer’s perspective (internal or external), is by definition non-value-add and should be minimized (or eliminated).   Now, think about this … some very reputable research suggests that, in a typical services process, 80% of the activities are non-value add. 

Yet, all those NVA activities add time and cost, and opportunities for errors to the process. In the case of most back-office processes (e.g. Finance, Customer Service, HR, IT, supply chain, etc), any saving in cycle time / cost filter straight to the bottom line.

80% NVA activities, savings straight to the bottom line … That tells me that there is ample room and opportunity for Lean in Service-oriented processes.      Think about it and contact me if you’d like to discuss in more detail.

Why Lean? Why Now?

August 20th, 2010 No comments

A long time friend told me how his boss asked him to manage his processes on a systems basis.  He wanted process maps and metrics.  He wanted control.  I’d like to help this friend so I asked him about his processes.  What were they?  Who owned them?  What was wrong?  But as he started to describe the work environment, he quickly took a left turn.  He began to tell me how hard everyone was working.  He told me how in the end, they met their goals but that it was killing them to get there.  He told me how the number of clients was growing and they anticipated growing further.  He told me how his company planned to add these clients without adding people.  He feared continuing to add work to the existing personnel would simply create an unstable environment in which the best people, who are starting to see job options, might leave.  And these are his most productive colleagues. 

Download Lean Overview PresentationOur new Lean QuickStart powerpoint presentation.

Basic psychology tells you that when you find someone’s fear, then you have found the motivation for change.  He was talking to me more out of the fear of an increasingly unstable environment with his team than his boss’ desire for control.  What advice could I offer him?  There are lots of options which we offer as services.  This friend is in a highly entrepreneurial environment so he gets to just do one. Which will it be?  What will reduce his fear? 

I told him he needed to simplify what they are doing.  It’s not time for control.  It’s time to reduce complexity.  How could he do that?  Well his company must be doing something right if they are adding clients in this environment.  But how much of what they do along the way is valued by those clients and how much of it is done because it’s the way it used to be done?  He needs to get rid of everything his customers don’t value.  He needs to get rid of everything that makes his team’s life so stressed and isn’t prized by his clients.  The things that make them work late and extra days.  We didn’t talk about deployment maps or how to introduce management systems.  We simply spoke about his fear.  

How many of us find ourselves in the same work environment?  We are trying to do all the things we used to do. But there are less people around.  And we are starting to grow again.  Maybe growth is not in an accelerated fashion but it is enough to stress out who is here.  And while the fear in the board room may be another decline, the fear in the workplace is of accelerated orders.   So, if people are working at their limit, eliminate what your clients don’t value.  And, if you’re sensing a greater risk from adding a customer ahead of another resource, reduce the complexity.   Let’s take out those non-value added activities and reduce the stress.  Let’s give ourselves the ability to handle growth without taking more risk.  If you find yourself in the same situation as my friend, contact me.


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