Customer, Process, and People- Three keys to driving a Lean Journey
For many years, the term Lean has been linked to manufacturing across the world. Many manufactures have already realized that, in order to compete globally, they have to change the way they do business. Our Service Industry Providers are now facing a similar dilemma! It has become common practice to cut jobs, overwork remaining staff, or outsource the jobs to reduce costs.
What does this mean for the value you are providing your customers? Many organizations drive change to meet financial and operational goals that positively influence the bottom line without contemplating the customers’ needs. When implementing Lean principles there are three main focuses that drive the entire philosophy:
There is much debate on which of these three principles should be viewed as the top priority. Over the years, GDC has assisted many organizations in understanding the correct approach for their specific circumstances—as there is truly no simple answer. There are many variables to consider when creating a strategic plan to transform to a Lean organization.
The example below highlights the journey of one of our clients who recently embraced the Lean principles within their organization.
A few years ago we started an engagement with an organization that rents Aerial (AWP) Equipment across Europe and Asia. The organization was successful, but was struggling with providing a consistent level of service globally. Many of the locations had robust processes, but the knowledge was not transparent and shared among the entire organization.
The first step was to identify a standardized process that would enable all entities of the organization to grow and prosper together. GDC worked with team members from 16 countries to identify best practices that could be shared world-wide within the organization. These best practices were transformed into a simple book that follows the rental service from initial customer contact to timely and accurate billing for services provided. This book has become this organization’s go-to manual for their daily operations.
Documentation of processes is necessary and worthwhile, but only if team members truly understand the benefits of the newly defined process. The next step was to implement the new process across the entire organization. GDC worked with 16 countries to implement the new processes and train the team members to ensure they understood the Lean practices being implemented and to drive the culture change required to sustain these changes and help them understand the benefits. Understanding the concepts behind Lean practices is not enough to transform an organization, team members must understand that they have two roles within the organization: 1) Perform their tasks within the operation and 2) Always identify new ways to improve and grow.
After implementing the new processes and engaging the people in the process, it was time to focus on the customer. Many of the operational improvements implemented were based upon expectations that customers have in the market, now the focus had to shift to ensuring the customer recognized the benefits that these “Value-added” services provided.
In this industry, sales people tend to focus on the availability of equipment to satisfy the customer needs. The marketing and sales approach centered around the equipment assets that the organization had to offer the customers. As On-time delivery, Accelerated Response Time, Flawless Quality, Safe Reliable Equipment, Transparent Communications (internal and external), and reduced cycle time within the process began driving the operational side of the business, the sales and marketing team had to learn to sell these values to their customers.
This meant transitioning away from the industry standard of marketing literature that focuses on heights and weights of equipment to literature that focuses on what is truly important to customer. It also meant that sales approaches had to shift from focusing on price to cost for the customer. In the equipment rental business, the price of the machine is just a fraction of the true cost utilizing the equipment on their job sites.
GDC trained the sales and marketing teams on the importance of selling increased up-time which ultimately reduces the total cost of the rental. A late delivery or broken down piece of equipment causes a stop in their process, which ultimately will raise their cost and lower their profitability. The training also focused on providing solutions that will allow their customer to perform their operations in a more streamlined approach, challenging them to “think outside the box” for the best solution.
This organization is making great progress down their path to integrating Lean principles into their business philosophy, but acknowledge that this is a never-ending journey. Today they are still constantly trying to find easier, simpler solutions to provide their customers with a world-class experience with each and every rental.
This is just one of GDC’s success stories in assisting our clients strive to implement and transform into Lean organizations. As mentioned above, GDC tailors our implementation approach to best suit individual client needs and expectations—allowing us to provide “Value-added” services to assist them in their journey of Continuous Improvement.