Monday, September 8, 2014

Lean Management and Providing Value to the Consumer

In the readings for this week, the most discussed aspect about Six Sigma and Lean Management techniques was how the attention to detail and standardization helps to make operations more efficient and less expensive. Employees are encouraged to be constantly improving the process and managers help to foster this growth. But how do these lean management techniques help to add more value to the customer? How can lean operations and efficiency lead a company in a way that helps guide this process?
Many industries are now using lean operations by providing what the customer really wants in the most efficient way.[1] In the retail-banking world, the conversion of paper checks and credit card slips is extremely beneficial for customers. While it definitely helps companies to save total time spent on these transactions and thereby decreasing the cost, more efficient and fast services are ideal for a banking customer.[2] With the advent of mobile check deposits, it not only helps to standardize processes and save resources in the industry, but also allows a customer to use funds from their latest paycheck the next business day without the hassle of having to physically go to a bank branch.
The airline industry focuses on issues like global distance, in-flight service, and safety. An industry that is marked by changes when they are necessary (i.e. policy changes due to airline crashes), the Toyota model attention to operations should be the next step according to McKinsey.[3] The more mundane operations here that customers see as inefficiency is baggage claim, waiting at the gate to board, and even waiting for an airplane to reach a gate after landing. Because flying has become much more available to the general public, customers are no longer impressed simply with their experience on board. These other issues actually lead to less than satisfactory experiences. One example given in a McKinsey Quarterly report that could be exposed to lean management techniques is the handling of passengers when they check in.3 While most would be routine passengers, there could be segmentation based on historical data that sheds light on passenger preferences, arrival times, and employee efficiency. Similar to process flows in a hospital setting that try to combat wait time, the airline industry could push their efforts to make the customer experience more efficient.
Disney is world renowned for their customer service and similar to other industries that work tirelessly to ensure their products are consistently of high quality, this company has used consumer behavior to drive efficiency in their operations of another sort in their parks. Disney has tailored the behavior of their park employees to better match the expected mood of a customer throughout the day. During the morning, the employees have an inspirational attitude to help customers become excited about their experience at the park. Alternatively, the afternoon attitude on behalf of the employees reflects the more tired nature of both the adults and children. They are calmer and comforting to the visitors.1 While these management techniques are not typical of an engineering setting, they still help to reduce waste and provide more value to the customer.
This week’s readings showcased the importance of standardization and lean management to higher quality operations and output. The question to ask is once companies implement these lean techniques to better their operations, how can they take it a step further by keeping the consumer in mind? A consumer driven world is inevitable, as access to products becomes easier for people from all reaches of the world. How can lean management techniques help foster this growth?


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