Lean manufacturing techniques — originally a system process developed by Toyota to increase efficiency inside company plants — have exploded. They are now used in nearly every industry, from software development to construction.
Lean thinking is, quite simply, a method for producing products and services as cost-efficiently as possible while still providing quality options to customers. It recognizes that people tend to be both a strength and a weakness regarding productivity.
The methodology is responsible for impressive results in several industries beyond manufacturing. Here’s a look at five of them, including the details of how they’ve adopted this technique.
From the outside looking in, it makes a lot of sense why the healthcare industry would benefit from lean processes and thinking. Medical professionals are constantly forced to be productive and highly capable with fewer and fewer resources — all without sacrificing the delivery of services. After all, sacrifices made during medical services can often mean life or death.
Lean thinking and operations help eliminate waste and excess, emphasizing the areas that matter most. It both creates a capacity to manage and helps balance manual labor in the field by prioritizing various practices.
One health provider, ThedaCare, moved more systems and equipment into patient rooms, reducing the time professionals spent on performing menial tasks and locating supplies. By doing this, they increased the hands-on time they spent with patients by 70%.
Many health care operations are following ThedaCare’s example, and as a result, the national health care system has improved considerably. Unnecessary tasks and waste are increasingly being eliminated, translating to reduced wait times for patients, faster and more effective services and higher-quality experiences. All of these things boost patient and customer satisfaction.
Another industry inundated with waste and productivity problems is the food and beverage sector. Most restaurants, especially chain operations, must maintain a positive reputation and provide quality service to customers while closely managing cost-effectiveness. Making service and supply changes merely to cut costs can have an immeasurable impact on the experience. Therefore, cost reductions need to be much more targeted and deliberate. To make matters worse, product life cycles in the food industry are extremely short, so there’s less time to act.
That’s where lean thinking comes into play. As it’s designed to do, the methodology puts a spotlight on aspects like processes, waste and even people that majorly impact productivity and cost. This technique allows these elements to be dealt with — or removed — without damaging the brand’s reputation, service or product quality.
Even better, lean naturally deals in environmentally friendly practices because it encourages waste reduction. Food and beverage businesses get double the benefits, gaining a boost in operations while moving toward a more holistic approach.
Lean manufacturing directives have been used by bakeries in the city of Medellin, Colombia, with the help of modern technology to tighten up waste production and improve efficiency and product quality.
As with many other industries, construction and development operations are vastly improved through the deployment of lean processes. At its core, construction is about building or refining properties in the least amount of time possible while effectively utilizing available resources.
Lean can help construction firms save money, provide better services and eliminate waste — from a material waste standpoint and regarding wasted productivity.
Many firms have turned to modern technology to create more streamlined operations with intelligent planning behind the scenes. These platforms tend to follow lean thinking principles and align with the idea of highly efficient operations. The Last Planner System is a real-world example of one such application.
Hotels often have many things happening at once. It’s difficult to manage operations from a top-down perspective and reduce waste while maintaining productivity. This issue is unfortunate, but it’s also why many hotels struggle with efficiency. They don’t prioritize the right processes and applications.
Success calls for more than an effective coordination program. It requires tight, lean operations on all fronts. In hospitality, people are integral to the machine’s cogs because they provide services to customers, so lean processes are designed to empower them.
Unnecessary processes and tasks are trimmed or eliminated while the emphasis shifts to applications that ultimately value the customer experience. One could even say the customer becomes the glue holding the operations together.
By 2020, the U.K. government is expected to save about £250 million by implementing lean thinking for its highway maintenance and construction projects. The general goal is to improve efficiency and performance by refining and challenging existing practices.
This case study is an excellent example of how the lean methodology fits in with government and public operations. This sector must constantly provide new and better services with few resources and limited options. Governments frequently have to abandon or shift away from certain enterprises to meet a particular budget. With lean, they could stretch their finances further to prevent that from happening.
This methodology may have its roots firmly planted in the manufacturing industry, but it’s become something much bigger. Nearly all industries have benefited and continue to benefit thanks to lean thinking and techniques. It now exists in fields such as software development, construction, health care, food and beverage and much more.
As a concept, it’s deceptively simple. The goal is to improve operations, eliminate waste and provide better products and services. The application of lean manufacturing, however, is much more complex. It takes a lot of planning and requires a deep understanding of existing processes and their many bottlenecks. The good news is that once it’s rolled out, the benefits are near instant.