Sunday, November 2, 2014

Lean Manufacturing in the Travel Industry

A number of the readings for this week focus on process improvement, and one type of process improvement discussed was lean manufacturing, which was popularized by Toyota.  After reading about the use of lean manufacturing in healthcare, I began to think about other industries that could use the lessons of lean manufacturing, and I came across an article titled, “New study calls on the travel industry to adopt 'lean' thinking if it wants to deliver true customer value.”

The author begins by explaining that the travel industry is in constant change and that in order for travel organizations to be successful they need to focus on the customer and efficiency.  The author believes that the IT functions, specifically, of travel organizations could benefit from the use of lean principles.  By cutting back on unnecessary tasks and processes, the IT department will be able to develop new apps and services that customers desire.  The article states that “Lean thinking is about cutting waste and removing inefficiency, whilst in turn increasing effectiveness and customer value.”

The article explains that the Amadeus IT Group “commissioned the renowned innovation forecaster James Woudhuysen” to develop a white paper “entitled ‘Cleared for take-off: Strategies in Lean IT, and how they’re relevant to the travel business’.”  The study uses graphics to illustrate lean ideas related to IT in the travel agency.  The very interesting graphic can be seen here:

One interesting idea presented was The Principles of Lean IT, which closely mirrored the ideas in our Toyota reading and included:
1. Base all decisions on objective data

2. Spend time on understanding the root condition of the problem

3. Give the power to those who work with your IT processes

4. Interpret your customer data in order to improve their experiences

5. Focus your business goals on what your customers want, not what you think they need

I found these ideas particularly clear and important.  Like Toyota, Lean IT requires hypotheses to be based on data and information.  It’s also important for everyone to be involved in the process changes – not just upper management.  Finally, the focus should be on actual customers not management’s thoughts about customers.

While reading through the information this week, I cannot help but think that these ideas seem so logical and straightforward.  However, it does not seem that any organization has been able to achieve the “ideal” process.  Clearly, these ideas are insightful and important but incredibly hard to fully implement.  I suppose that any step toward process improvement using lean ideas could aid an organization in better serving its customers.  After reading about how lean principles can help product manufacturing, health care and travel, I am having trouble thinking of an industry that would not benefit from these ideas.


1. Do you agree that the IT functions of travel organizations are most in need of process improvement?  Are you dissatisfied with current IT services provided by travel organizations?  Are there other travel organization functions that need process improvements more?

2.  Is it possible to implement all the Principles of Lean IT?  Can you base all decisions on objective data?  Can you put major decisions in the hands of every member of your team?


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