Lean Consumption

The complementary process to lean production. Lean consumption calls for streamlining all the actions that must be taken to acquire goods and services so that customers receive exactly what they want, when and where they want it, with minimum time and effort.

Companies can streamline consumption by following a six-step thought process, similar to the one for lean manufacturing (Adapted from Womack and Jones 2005, p.15.):

Principles of Lean Consumption

  1. Solve the customer’s problem completely by insuring that all the goods and services work, and work together.
  2. Don’t waste the customer’s time.
  3. Provide exactly what the customer wants.
  4. Provide what’s wanted exactly where it’s wanted.
  5. Provide what’s wanted where it’s wanted exactly when it’s wanted.
  6. Continually aggregate solutions to reduce the customer’s time and hassle (bundle a complete range of options from across many organizations).

Applying the concepts requires producers and providers of goods and services to think about consumption not as an isolated decision to buy a specific product, but as a continuing process—a set of activities linking many goods and services over an extended period in order to solve a problem.

For example, when a consumer buys a home computer, his or her objective is not to own a computer but to solve the problem of accessing, processing, storing, and transferring information. The act of buying the computer is not a onetime transaction, but a process of researching, obtaining, integrating, maintaining, upgrading, and, finally, disposing of the computer, and quite possibly, following the same process for software, and peripheral devices.

Lean consumption requires a fundamental shift in the way retailers, service providers, manufacturers, and suppliers think about the relationship between provision and consumption, and the role their customers play in these processes. It also requires collaboration between consumers and providers to minimize total cost and wasted time.