Lean for Service

Historically, Lean principles have been applied to the manufacturing floor to increase labor productivity, simplify production control and flow, and decrease inventory. After successfully applying Lean to production processes, organizations noticed that their offices are filled with inefficiencies. As a result, Lean is gaining popularity for streamlining administrative processes, eliminating waste, improving service, and ultimately achieving bottom line savings. Given that 60 to 80 percent of all costs related to meeting customer demand are administrative—and not production related—applying lean to service makes sense.

Lean Impacts All Levels

A Lean office can impact administrative processes at all levels of an organization. 

  • Enterprise: At the enterprise level, Lean streamlines and accelerates the processes that touch external customers and suppliers, such as order entry, customer service, accounts payable, marketing and sales, and research and development. 
  • Organization: At the organizational level, Lean helps streamline key support processes, such as IT, HR, engineering, and purchasing. Using Lean tools and techniques helps with identifying internal customer requirements, determining what is important to these customers, and improving communication and cross-functional cooperation. 
  • Department: At the departmental level, Lean reduces activities that add time but have little value. 
  • Individual: At the individual level, Lean techniques help reduce paperwork, manual entries, and errors in daily work.

A Lean Tool in Action

An example of applying a Lean tool, the spaghetti diagram, to administrative processes illustrates the potential of Lean.

A spaghetti diagram is a simple paper and pencil mapping tool. The diagram provides an overview of how people or work units flow through processes. In an inefficient process, the movement lines on the diagram come to resemble a pile of tangled spaghetti.

It’s easy to see how a spaghetti diagram helps analyze a production line, but how is this tool applied in a service environment? Try it with a frequently repeated administrative process, such as sending information for approval.

If the information is going back and forth multiple times, the diagram likely looks like a bowl of spaghetti. This indicates a process that would benefit from applying Lean.

Lean tools and analysis help the team identify efficiency opportunities and optimize the flow.

Acuity has helped organizations of all sizes and types create efficient processes that reduce waste and significantly improve service.