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From the Lean Lexicon 5th Edition:

Service Level Agreement:   A promise between a customer and supplier process to meet certain targets, including timing, as part of a handoff.  A commonly used agreement governs the timing of the handoff and includes some type of time buffer. For example: “Radiology agrees to a one-hour turnaround for all standard chest film requests.  ” The fixed-time buffer means that some orders might be completed faster than an hour but that all standard chest film requests would be completed within one hour. Alternately, a standard-pace agreement could specify the actual timing of the handoff, such as, “Housekeeping agrees to submit any stockout requests by More »
How can there be standards -- or kaizen -- in a service job when no two instances are the same?
By: Michael Ballé | August 5, 2019
Columns; eLetters
Dear Gemba Coach, I’m in a service job and I struggle with the idea of standards. I read that there can be no kaizen without standards but how can you have standards when no two instances are the same? More »
Lean Office & Service Simplified Book Club Questions
July 25, 2019
Demystifying the application of lean methods, Lean Office and Service Simplified: The Definitive How-To Guide goes beyond the basic tools to detail the key concepts of lean as they apply to office and service environments. It begins with value stream management, followed by chapters on standard work, flow, level pull, and visual management.  LEI makes it easy to learn together, download our free book club questions below. More »
How do you apply takt time to service work?
By: Michael Ballé | December 3, 2018
Columns; eLetters
Dear Gemba Coach, How do you apply takt time in fields like services where customer demand is not known? More »
Andon Cues Service Center to Respond to Customer Queue
By: Chet Marchwinski | March 13, 2018
An Ohio Mutual service center has no andon cord to stop a production line but the principal is the same as in a factory -- an abnormality has occurred, take corrective action. More »
Lean Office and Service Simplified
By: Drew Locher | February 9, 2011
Lean Office and Service Simplified goes beyond the basic tools to detail the key concepts of lean as they apply to office and service environments. More »
An Action Plan for Lean Services
By: Womack, Jim | July 8, 2004
Presentations; Value-Stream Maps
a 2004 presentation by Jim Womack to the European lean community More »
The Lean Service Machine
By: Swank, Cynthia Karen | October 1, 2003
The Harvard Business Review details how Jefferson Pilot Financial applied lean principles to its insurance business, not only to cut costs, but to grow revenue by distinguishing itself from competitors by offering better service to customers. (Follow link for how to obtain full article from HBR.  ) More »
Lean in Service: A simulation-based workshop
This workshop is designed for learning by doing with no up-front instruction. By discovering some key points through the simulation and receiving others “just-in-time” from the instructor, you will develop a deeper understanding of the why behind the techniques you experience. Engaging reflection sessions ensure that your learning objectives are met. More »
Rebuilding Homes and Disaster Recovery Processes
By: Zack Rosenburg | May 15, 2019
When Liz McCartney and Zack Rosenburg left their careers to help desperate victims of Hurricane Katrina rebuild, they knew nothing about construction or lean management. Today, SBP, the disaster recovery nonprofit they founded, has cut rebuilding time by nearly 50% using lean concepts. Zack talks to LEI about the remarkable new recovery model they developed and detail in their new book, Getting Home. More »
How to Scale Up Positive Social Change
By: Ann Mei Chang | May 13, 2019
Far more households globally have access to a mobile phone than a toilet, notes Ann Mei Chang, a tech executive turned social innovator and author. And that’s despite the time and money spent for years by hundreds of nonprofits, social organizations, companies, and government agencies. Listen as she explains her radical idea of taking the scientific method she learned in tech and the lean startup movement to create radically great social good at scale. More »
Seafood Restaurant Fishes for Problems Customers Really Care About
By: Richard Vellante | December 5, 2018
The executive chef at Legal Sea Foods explains how the restaurants are cutting lead times from fishing boat to your belly. More »
How to Engage Employees Through Creativity
By: Nicole Hudson | October 17, 2018
Is your company or department struggling to engage employees? Then learn from LifeWay Christian Resources, which moved away from a top-down, tool-oriented approach to continuous improvement training to a focus on engaging and developing people with thematic events and instruction. More »
Respect the Customer By Respecting Your Worker
By: Mark Reich | May 3, 2018
Lean provides us with a different approach to this vicious cycle. Build a management system in your company that allows employees to make the best decisions for the customer (end user and next process). This shows respect for your people. More »
Practicing Lean Fundamentals in an Office Environment
By: Locher, Drew | January 24, 2013
Applying lean principles in service organizations and administrative processes within manufacturing companies often confounds companies. Lean faculty member and author Drew Locher offers four key steps to focus on for success. More »
Lean Thinking for the Office
By: Locher, Drew | June 29, 2011
Unfortunately, attempts to apply lean principles in service organizations or to administrative processes in manufacturing companies often fall short of complete success. Key reasons for these shortcomings is that office work has more variability than factory work. However, the cause of the variability is often how the company organizes itself to process information. In many printing companies, the information process consumes the largest amount of lead time, which a printer typically addresses through prepress. But the lengthy lead times in the prepress process are related to the many hand-offs and queues that exist. To minimize the delays, printers make significant More »
Using Lean Thinking to Reinvent City Government
By: David Drickhamer | April 1, 2008
Case Studies; Images
In many cities, stagnant tax revenues from a slowing economy coupled with rising healthcare and energy costs are causing budget shortfalls. To cope with the budget squeeze, Grand Rapids, MI, has turned to lean principles. City employees have learned firsthand how consolidating operations, eliminating wasted time and effort, and streamlining processes can help them improve productivity while providing the quality of service that city residents want, in less time and with less effort and More »
The Missing Link
By: Womack, Jim; | February 7, 2008
Columns; eLetters
I have a great stove, not that I cook that much. It's shiny, sophisticated, and full of capabilities, most of which I never use. I've been very happy with this brilliant object and its manufacturer for more than five years until the last few weeks when it needed its first repair.  I called the service organization of the manufacturer and arranged a technician visit after a number of calls and call backs. When the technician arrived it was easy to identify the problem. Indeed, I had very accurately described the problem over the phone. But the technician hadn't gotten the More »
Mapping to See: Value-Stream Improvement Workshop
By: John Shook, Beau Keyte, Jim Luckman, et al. | April 9, 2007
Books; Training Packages
Mapping to See: Value-Stream Improvement for the Office and Services is a complete training solution created by some of the most seasoned veterans working in lean today.   The value stream improvement process and tools are designed to bring a proven approach to office and service environments in companies of all sizes. More »
Sell One, Buy One, Make One: Transforming from Conventional to Lean Distribution
By: Chet Marchwinski | December 8, 2006
Case Studies; Charts, Graphs and Diagrams; Images
Big batches. Long lead times. Infrequent deliveries. Large inventories to cover fluctuations in demand. These aren't characteristics normally attributed to lean paragon Toyota, but they once accurately described the automaker's service parts distribution system -- but no more. More »
Thinking End to End
By: Womack, Jim | August 11, 2006
Columns; eLetters
Every value stream runs from raw materials all the way to the end customer. And value for the customer is only delivered at the very end.   In many service industries, of course, the “raw material” is information rather than molecules -- like the data in the claim application processed by an insurance company. But the situation is the same. Value is only delivered at the end of the stream.   Today I see a lot of progress in applying lean thinking to isolated segments of the value stream, even across functions within firms. But optimizing the entire stream as it flows More »
The Big Opportunity
By: Womack, Jim | November 7, 2005
Columns; eLetters
I started studying manufacturing performance  26 years ago this fall. We set out at MIT to perform the most exhaustive and accurate benchmarking of the world’s largest manufacturing industry – motor vehicles – because we believed this was the best proxy for manufacturing in general and believed that a sea change in manufacturing practice was occurring.  When I look back on the past 26 years, I see what many members of the Lean Community with shorter careers may not. We have made terrific progress in improving design, production, and supplier management processes. As a result, defects in new vehicles and problems More »
Lean Consumption
By: Womack, James and Jones, Daniel;; | March 4, 2005
Articles; Charts, Graphs and Diagrams
"Lean Consumption" is the lead article in the March 2005 issue of the Harvard Business Review. It previews the breakthrough ideas in the forthcoming book from Jim Womack and Dan Jones to be published this fall. Lean consumption requires a fundamental shift in the way manufacturers, suppliers, retailers, and service providers think about the connection between provision and consumption. The article explains how leading edge companies have stopped wasting their customer's time (and the companies' money) while providing their customers exactly what they want, where they want, when they want. More »
Toothbrush Plant Reverses Decay in Competitiveness
By: Chet Marchwinski | December 16, 2004
Case Studies; Charts, Graphs and Diagrams; Images
Faced with competition from plants in China and Mexico, Oral-B's Iowa City plant was slated for closure. But the rapid introduction of a lean system, beginning with just-in-time production and pull, saved it by reducing lead times and inventory to cut costs while augmenting the plant’s advantage in service. More »
Deconstructing the Tower of Babel
By: Womack, Jim | October 7, 2004
Columns; eLetters
Seventeen years ago, in my office at MIT, I witnessed a magic moment when a new term was born.    We were getting ready to publish the first article on the findings of the International Motor Vehicle Program and we needed a label to describe the phenomenon we were observing in our study of Toyota.  After trying out a lot of terms that didn’t seem quite right, John Krafcik, one of our young researchers, suggested that we name the system -- including its design, production, purchasing, and customer service elements -- for what it does.  So we wrote on a More »
Lean Beyond the Factory
By: Womack, Jim | March 23, 2004
Columns; eLetters
I've been thinking a lot recently about just what a business really is.    As a lean process thinker, my best answer is that a business is a collection of value creating processes. Indeed, it's the sum of its processes.  Some of these are primary processes that directly create value for the customer, notably the product development process and the production process.    Others - the great majority - are support processes that no external customer values but which are essential if the primary processes are going to create the value the external customer does desire.    Examples include the More »
Value-Stream Mapping for Healthcare
This interactive workshop demonstrates how to apply lean principles and value-stream mapping, a fundamental and critical tool, to make fundamental improvements in a healthcare organization's clinical/administrative processes. See how these principles apply to the processes such as emergency medical care, pharmacy, diagnostic procedures (lab and radiology), patient registration and discharge, records, and billing. More »
Lean Product Development: Delivering New Products, Faster and Better
Many companies have applied lean thinking to manufacturing or service processes, and some have even honed focus by applying the standard tools and methods to additional organizational functions. But true lean leaders realize that their enterprise cannot thrive in the current environment of rapid change and unpredictable economics by focusing only on efficiency More »
Practicing Lean Fundamentals in an Office Environment
Description: This two-day workshop has been designed for individuals and teams who work in office and service environments that want to gain a better understanding of the philosophy, thinking and acting within a Lean Enterprise and how it might benefit their customers, organizations, and staffs. It will demonstrate the overall approach for implementing a lean transformation including both work and management processes in your organization. More »