Can your small service business think Lean?

Can your small service business think Lean?

Lean is not all about applying lean tools. In fact it works best when its ideas get embedded in to your business and becomes the way you do things. So the answer to this question is a resounding yes. Your small service business can think Lean. 

The benefits of thinking lean for a small service business is that you can put your business in a better position to create better service ,enhance effectiveness, deliver excellent customer service, and after service, react to customers changing needs faster than your competitors, and remove any frustrations that your customers or your staff have with your business processes. 

The five lean thinking principles are a generic version of The Toyota Production System so they can be applied to any business. The principles facilitate you to really get to know your business. So it’s not just for manufacturing and the production of ‘hard’ or ‘physical’ products. The difference is that as a small service business you are involved in the creation of ‘soft’ or ‘intangible’ service. Lean is all about value and value is ‘intangible’ so this makes it well suited to your service business. 

To become a Lean business takes your time and energy. It needs your leadership commitment and a passion to do better. It’s not easy. It involves every part of your business, including your suppliers, your website and most importantly your customers. 

The first step to transform your service business can be found in the five principles of Lean thinking. These do not need you to be an engineer nor do they require you to go and get expensive software or new technology. In fact your time and that of your team along with a commitment to keep at it are the most important elements to embed value and remove waste. 

The Five Lean Thinking Principles that every small service business owner should know: 

  1. Define value from your customer’s perspective. This means you need to really get to know your customer. The output may result in you questioning if the service you are currently providing is what the customer needs. But this is a good thing because it gives you the opportunity to redesign your service.
  2. Once you have your customers definition of value established you will need to examine all of your processes that create value for your customer. In lean this is called mapping the value stream. This will allow you to see all of the restrictions that are currently in the way of you delivering the service to your customer along with all of the things that you are doing that are not necessary to deliver value of your service . And in Lean Thinking these are called waste.
  3. The next step is to remove the waste. This is to allow your service process flow without interruption to your customer. What you are aiming for is a complete flow from the first contact right to the completion and all of the after sales services. When your eliminate all of the obstacles to create flow the customer gets a better service. You can expect your business costs to reduce once your processes to become standardise and smooth.
  4. Lean thinking is a pull system and not a push system which means that you set your service up to respond to customer demands. By providing your service just in time, when and where the customer needs it. Changing to a pull system will dramatically change how you currently deliver your service.
  5. The final part of lean thinking is that it is a programme of continuous improvement of processes and development and empowerment of your people.

There are plenty of basic and inexpensive tools that you can choose once you start your Lean journey. In fact there is not a specific tool that you need to use, the ones that you will choose will depend on your specific problems. However the most important job is creating a lean thinking mind-set and this is down to you and your staff and your ability and willingness to change. 

The change is the change of focus. The critical aim of your service will be to provide value to the customer, your part in this will be to visualise and redesign processes. Once you start to see your service business as a lean business you will see that there is always room for improvement and this is the first phase for your service business to think Lean.