Remove waste in services’ sector?

4 minutes
Office Kaizen

The lean and Six Sigma concepts are very geared towards the manufacturer. In computing, Agile techniques are very close for both concepts and tools. Everything is therefore also applicable in the service sector, with some adjustments. I recommend reading William Lareau’s Office Kaizen, which covers most of the tools and methods and explains them in the service industry. In this article, I come to detail one of the bases of operational excellence: the reduction of waste.

Real or virtual production?

In the end, service companies produce value, but by intellectual rather than mechanical processes, which causes two difficulties compared to the manufacturer:

The concept of flow also applies since the information or the request follows a flow. However, the flow is often immaterial and more complex to follow: the value chain is less visible in offices than in a factory. astes related to flow are less visible and more devious to hunt because they can take several dimensions. The effectiveness of a service organization will mainly be based on the simplicity and relevance of these flows.

The other difficulty lies in the nature of the human. Unlike a machine, its operation is not always repeatable, it is subject to emotions, tiredness. TPM applies less. More generally, the functioning of the human brain can not be standardized. It is the very nature of service companies: knowing what can be standardized (and therefore automated) and what is the value brought by the human in the value chain.

What is waste?

Waste consists of all actions, steps that the customer is not willing to pay for a service.

Pile de documents

Here are some examples :

  • Time to search a document
  • Triple signature for the approval of an application
  • Different answers to the same question by different people
  • Error
  • Waiting to get service

In his book, Office Kaizen, William Lareau classifies wastes into 4 categories and 26 subcategories. So there are many variations, but they lead to the same result: the customer pays for an activity that does not bring value to the service rendered.

How to eliminate waste?

To be able to eliminate it, it must be identified. Easier said than done … I suggested some techniques last month.

Then see how waste can be eliminated or at least reduced, tool 5 why is your most valuable ally in this step because it will help you find the root cause.

  1. How come three people have to approve the application?
  2. Why can not X sign alone?
  3. Why does Z want the information?

5W’s can also be used:

  • Which archiving rules apply to which documents?
  • Who really needs …?
  • Where should the information be?
  • When should we …?

Finally, mapping (when different sectors are impacted) is a good starting point for deciding what the ideal process should be. It should have the fewest possible steps and interactions.


In order to reduce waste in services, it must be made visible. Unlike the industry, bottlenecks are often virtual and require a little imagination to be seen. Mapping is a good way to show them.

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