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Lean is Not Just For Manufacturers

All of us need a lot of support to ‘stay on the straight and narrow’ in life.


But then again so do businesses, we are in fact just groups of people trying to solve a certain world need.


We know that Lean is an improvement methodology with rigour and flexibility that can provide that steering functionality to keep us going in the best direction with the most efficient use of resources.

Lean in simple terms is a way to optimize all your resources to create the best value for your customer. Lean started in manufacturing and has now become a business methodology.

Therefore, Lean can certainly be applied to any organization.


Let us show you how the Lean principles are functional and adaptable to any business environment.


Lean at its core is simply understanding and continuously improving your processes by establishing clear customer value driven goals and then eliminating non-value adding activities.


The typical tools applicable for any business include:

  • Voice of the Customer and Customer

  • Requirements

  • Process mapping, Value stream mapping

  • Business Strategy to meet customer needs and business goals

  • Identifying and Eliminating Wastes

  • Mistake-proofing

  • Conducting Improvement Projects in a formal way using DMAIC (define, measure, analyze, improve, control)

  • Innovation Programs

  • Value-driven metrics

Here are examples of real businesses we’ve worked with from three very different sectors:


  • Retail Distributor

  • Flower Designer / Service Provider

  • Consulting Firm for Public Sector

Retail Distributor


Case: Business doing $3-5M a year. Handling 5,000+ unique parts sourcing and selling from 10-50 suppliers. Their biggest challenges were managing relationships with suppliers and managing inventory. And ultimately, meeting customer expectations of good price and fast and reliable shipping promises.


Lean Tools and Ideas they put into place:


  • Voice of the customer – getting input from their customers as to what kind of lead times are acceptable and unacceptable

  • Process Mapping – discovering that invoicing is all still done manually and backs up the whole system by 1-3 days unnecessarily

  • Identifying and Eliminating Waste – some older inventory is backing up, decision required to return, sell or toss everything older than 2 years old

Flower Designer / Service Provider


Case: New and expanding business providing flower arrangements with a vision to double in size in two years. Biggest challenge was juggling traditional high-volume online orders with lower-volume-high-quality events servicing.


Lean Tools and Ideas they put into place:


  • Customer requirements / process mapping – reviewed product mix with respect to groups of clients and their specific needs and mapping how each impacts their business -> identifying which ones they want to put more focus on

  • Identify and Eliminate Waste – opportunity to eliminate phone orders, encouraging online orders which are automated and require less administration time

  • Innovation Program – developed and tested their custom innovation strategy to come up with new ideas, designs, and confirm their value and feasibility before implementing, as well as keeping track of outputs

Consulting Firm


Case: Growing consulting practice with 30+ consultants across Canada, looking to expand to 5 new zones by 2022. Biggest challenge was being super busy, and not having time to work on the business and to establish standard processes.


Lean Tools and Ideas they put into place:


  • Customer requirements – mapped main values including their expertise, attention to quality, brand recognition and good relationships

  • Process Mapping – identified the key steps along each client project for the first time: from winning the work, research, conducting work, final report and close out.

  • Identify and Eliminate Waste – along the process map each area has opportunities which highlight a waste that can be eliminated such as ‘standard structure of final report – template and clear identification of roles and responsibilities’ or ‘save motion waste by creating interview template that is live so it doesn’t have to be sent back and forth’

  • Business Strategy – breaking down a high-level goal into sub goals and key approaches for each with people assigned to monitor and implement.

  • Innovation Program – implemented a ‘growth committee’ simply tasked with keeping momentum going on the improvement projects and tasks identified on-going

If you are thinking to improve your business, we want you to consider Lean as a core methodology that is tried-and-true and practices in all sectors and business environments. Contact us today to start a conversation. It’s your time now to investigate lean for your business. Your customers will thank you and will keep coming back. *Contact us* at (780) 471 7060 or email start@goproductivity.ca to learn more about how Lean can help your organization.


(Dec 2019, Caitlin Lopez)

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