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Lean Consumption for Service Operations

Lean Consumption for service operations is the application of the lean manufacturing concept to service operations. It is distinct in that Lean services are not concerned with the making of ‘tangible’ products.

Lean principles of Continuous Improvement and Respect for People have been applied to all types of services including call centres, health care, higher education, software development, and public and professional services. Conceptually, these implementations follow very similar routes to those in manufacturing settings, and often use some of the same tools and techniques. There are, however, many significant distinctions and the same tools can be applied in different ways.

‘Service’ in this context is not limited to ‘the office’ or ‘administration’ that have been the focus of several books and publications, but also wider service situations that are not necessarily repetitive, where ‘task’ time is not applicable, and where task times may be both long and variable. Service in this context could mean anything from a hospital to a university, from an office process to a consultancy, and from a warehouse to field service maintenance.

It is important not to confuse ‘service operations’ with the economic definition of service sectors (as distinct from manufacturing sectors), since many ‘service sector’ organisations have manufacturing-like operations in that they produce regular outputs along value streams. It is therefore important to realise that within a service environment you can encounter a range of situations from very repetitive work to that which involves a high degree of discretion on the part of the workforce. Each of these situations require significantly different interpretations of lean, as well as appropriate variations in management approach.

Wikipedia, January 2010

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