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Lean Solutions: How Companies and Customers Can Create Value and Wealth Together
 
by James P. Womack and Daniel T. Jones, The Lean Enterprise Institute, Inc. "an education, publishing, and research organization with an action plan. Compared with traditional "think" tanks, we are a "do" tank." See http://www.lean.org.

Clever ideas about applying lean, JIT manufacturing successes all along the value chain in the customer service, provisioning and delivery side, not just backwards down the supply chain.
They suggest that reducing cost in service and retail come not from hiring the cheapest employees and reducing the time per task, but in doing the right thing, the first time, every time.  If the task you are repeating over and over, quicker and quicker, with a lower paid employee has zero value to your customers, they ask what high-value task should this cost actually be going towards?  End-to-end lean analyses push consumption chains towards more sustainable solutions.  Very thought provoking and definitely a compelling alternative to current trends. 

Womack and Jones take us through typical consumer service and buying experiences and do a rough calculation of the cost of waste in the system from the customer's hold time when making an appointment to the cost of service technicians waiting for parts while a half-completed item fills the available workspace.   They also look at the cost to consumers, retailers and producers of stock-outs on popular items while shelves overflow with the deeply-discounted leftovers that obviously no sane consumer wants, but ends up settling for.  

Lean principals:  give the end-user/customer what he needs, when he needs it, where he needs it in a complete solution and ruthlessly remove steps from your process that don't support that.  Lean processes add a necessary level of complexity to business analysis, as they insist in measuring the true cost of processes, goods and services end-to-end and cradle-to-grave, including processes outside the business unit.  Information systems have the horse power and the data available to do this, but often only apply an analysis to a tiny silo within the overall supply/provisioning/consumption chain. True BI solutions will need to be much more sophisticated and much more collaborative from raw material supplier to consumer to recycler in order to provide optimized solutions that actually reduce total cost of ownership.  Meanwhile, lean thinking can result in vast improvements in any process chain as all participants concentrate on replacing steps that add little or no value with actual solutions that users will be happy to pay for. 
Lots of opportunity for IT to provide information we need, when and where we want it.  Lots of opportunity for entrepreneurs to sell integrated solutions that meet customers' real needs at the same or lower total cost of ownership.  Sustainable solutions are almost by definition both lean and dynamic. 

 


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