This is an excellent article by Robert Martichenko at the Lean Post about Lean Principles for supply chain which illustrates the key aspects of Lean for Services:
Lean for services has many similarities with Lean for manufacturing:
- Create flow: Balance the demand (creating level flow) or use pull systems (sequential, kanban).
- Put management in place (discipline to find problems, discover root causes and find solutions).
- Take decisions that improve the process end to end; avoid improvement silos.
- Make customer consumption visible.
However Lean for services is particular in some ways:
- It typically works with information: Information is more difficult to map and see. It can be hidden easily, most often in IT systems.
- Most of the waste occurs in handoffs: When the information moves from department to department (or site to site, company to company,…) processes often lack visibility and discipline, waste and errors are more probable and lead time tends to increase.
Value Stream Maps for services (aka Swim-lane maps) are good tools if you want to see a service from the beginning to the end. They put great focus in handoffs and help you see where problems are most likely to happen.
Just as Robert says in his article, the best processes aren’t those that have the most efficient silos, but those that are most efficient end to end.