Lean Strategy, Lean Action

With lean manufacturing, the idea is pretty simple: get rid of waste, in whatever form it might be, so that the only processes you have left add value to your customers.  These become your core, essential processes, the ones your business can’t function without and switches the focus of your business to your customers to improve satisfaction, increase efficiency, and reduce operational costs.
Even though this idea started in manufacturing, it can be applied to any industry.  Every business has room to improve.

Here’s one approach to being lean in 5 easy steps:

Step 1: Sort & Identify Value

Review the processes you go through on a daily basis:  How do you schedule jobs as customers call in?  How long does it take you to create an invoice based off of a completed work order?  Can you provide detailed proof of work to your customers?  Essentially, all of these questions boil down to: How efficient are your business processes?

This is what lean manufacturing is all about: boosting efficiency by switching your focus to serving your customers. The two go hand in hand.

Think about it this way:

  • The value of your business depends on the satisfaction of your customers
  • The satisfaction of your customers depends on your employee’s ability to complete a job quickly and accurately
  • Your employee’s ability to complete a job depends on how efficient your business processes are

So evaluate which processes are necessary to create customer satisfaction, rank how important each one is, and eliminate the ones that have no added value.  At the end of this step, you should have only the necessary processes you need to run your business and best serve your customers.

Step 2: Re-Order

Now that you have a list of essential processes, order them in a way that will promote efficiency and productivity in the workplace.  One method is to establish a systematic workflow, drawing out how each step connects to the next starting with receiving a call from a customer all the way down to sending out invoices and paying your employees.Workflows are all about the details of the process. Break down each basic step into even smaller steps, and consider how you can alter those steps to make them faster.

For example, think about your process of dispatching.  How do you send work orders to your employees? Is it on paper? Do you notify them with a call? What do you use for navigation and routing to get to the job site on time? How live is that data? And finally…..is this the best way for you to communicate effectively with your employees when it comes to dispatching?

Sometimes the basic order of steps will remain the same, but start to ask yourself what you can do to make these steps work better.  Always stay receptive and adaptive to change.  Make sure there is some flexibility in case of future advancements and growth within your company.

Step 3: Polish

Workflows are not a simple thing.  There is a lot of overlap and dependency within them; if one step isn’t done accurately or timely, it will mess up the next one.  Fixing this challenge isn’t about adding in more processes; it’s about transforming the way you do business.  One way to do this is by going digital.

Take advantage of mobile scheduling, time tracking, electronic forms, vehicle navigation and routing systems, etc.  Digitizing your processes cuts down the amount of time spent sorting through paperwork, therefore reducing operational costs and human error.

To see how effective digitized processes can be, think about everything that is included in a work order: the time it took to do the job, the materials that were used, forms signed by the customer, notes of details or problems that occurred, etc.  Where do you store work orders when you’re done with them?  And how do you access these reports later on to view customer history?

When you’ve been in business for years and start to accumulate hundreds of customers, you don’t want to be sorting through multiple filing cabinets filled with hundreds of sheets of paper trying to find a past report.  Going digital allows two things to occur:

  1. You have everything stored in one place, so past reports are easier to access and communication becomes simpler.
  2. You can integrate your digital system with your new workflow to create better management by making sure that steps are done systematically.

Step 4: Standardize

Ensure that all of your employees are on the same page when it comes to this new process, and train them in on these new workflows.  Develop a set of rules of how and when to record data and where to store it. Where do you want your employees to record materials used for each job? How do you want them to record it? What details should they include?Whatever format you decide on, make sure it is the same across the board.  It’s important to have consistency within the entire business organization.

Step 5: Maintain

Maintain the new order of processes you’ve set up and review it regularly.  You may find that a few years down the road you need to edit some of the processes you have in place.  Future technology, products, and tools may become available that can further improve your business operations.
The main goals of being lean in your business operations are to cut costs through improved efficiencies, create a focus on adding value to customers, and instill progress.  We live in a fast-paced world, and in this day and age, the expectations of service industries continue to advance and change.  It’s necessary for you to have the ability to change with them.

About IndusTrack
IndusTrack provides a simple, easy to use, and highly accurate solution to build efficiency in service industry companies.  We combine in-vehicle GPS tracking and a mobile app for workforce management into an all-in-one software tool.  Track your job locations, time spent on the job, material usage, and your crew to improve efficiency, increase revenue, and ensure customer satisfaction.