One of the questions we are asked most often about KAIZEN® and Lean thinking is whether it applies anywhere else other than in manufacturing. Toyota, the originator of what we now call Lean thinking, is a manufacturer and Lean manufacturing is the most common context for using the word lean. However Lean thinking applies to any organisation. In our KAIZEN® Management System, one of the “pillars” is called Total Service Management (TSM) and deals with KAIZEN® in the Service environment. This is one of the biggest growth areas in the KAIZEN® world. One of our longest running clients in The Open Polytechnic of New Zealand which is essentially a service delivery organisation. Lean thinking is now being applied in many healthcare environments all over the world and is attracting much attention here in the New Zealand public hospital system.
I noticed an article recently in The News-Press, the local paper of Lee County, Florida. In the article the author described a series of Lean initiatives that had been applied in the City of Cape Coral, the equivalent of a City Council here in New Zealand. The article was headed “18-month-old initiative saves city $2 million - drive to streamline procedures pays off” and goes on to describe a series of savings achieved across many parts of the City’s activities:
- Public works: Swale repair procedures improved, time to repair reduced from 3 days to 1 day and a 2 year backlog was eliminated
- Clerk's Office: Time for issuing business license reduced from 40 days to 7-10 days
- Parks and Recreation: Parks maintenance procedures improved
- Fire: Time to hire firefighters reduced from 2 months to 1 month
- Finance: Time to process purchase orders reduced to less than 1 day
- Community Development: Time to issue building permits reduced from 20 days to 8-10 days
- Police: Processing traffic tickets reduced from 12 minutes to 5-6 minutes
The nature of these savings is often in less people time being needed to complete the tasks. Importantly however, the saving is realised not by making those people redundant – instead their time is freed up to focus on other areas where additional resource is required, or their learning about Lean initiatives enables them to spend time teaching others how to achieve benefits in their work areas.
This story neatly illustrates the breadth of the potential for Lean thinking and should provide some food for thought for public officials in both Central and Local Government in New Zealand!
The article in The News-Press can be found here