Lean implementation in a service factory : views from the front-line

Smith, Marisa and Paton, Steve and MacBryde, Jillian (2018) Lean implementation in a service factory : views from the front-line. Production Planning and Control, 29 (4). pp. 280-288. ISSN 0953-7287 (https://doi.org/10.1080/09537287.2017.1418455)

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The deployment of Lean methods in service work is increasingly viewed as a legitimate response to the growing requirement for more efficient front-line service delivery. However, research investigating Lean implementations is reporting mixed results with process efficiency gains frequently marginalised by losses in employee satisfaction and customer focus. It has been suggested that these sub-optimal outcomes are the result of partial adoptions of Lean where the emphasis is placed on process efficiency with employee and customer outcomes neglected. Using an Action Research approach this paper investigates the outcomes of a Lean implementation within a UK call centre. The Action Research methodology used ensured that a holistic rather than a partial implementation of Lean was achieved and this research finds that Lean when implemented properly can lead to improved process efficiency, a better customer experience and increased employee satisfaction. It suggests that to achieve these optimum outcomes Lean implementations must as a priority be focused on creating customer satisfaction and be customised to fit with particular contingencies in the organisational context such as the nature of the interface between the front-line worker and the customer.