Purpose – Service productivity continues to receive ever-greater amounts of attention as service covers a greater portion of the economy. As competition increases, service productivity becomes increasingly important. This study aims to explore the applicability of lean principles in a service context and to conceptualize how these principles impact service productivity.
Design/methodology/approach – This paper presents a conceptual analysis of the six most commonly used lean principles in manufacturing and their applicability to a service context for different types of services. Using this analysis, six propositions are developed to examine the influence of lean on service productivity.
Findings – This study suggests promising synergies, as well as important obstacles, for applying lean principles in services. Standardizing services and increasing reliability in service processes through lean principles can increase efficiency. However, the customer's active role in certain services and, simultaneously, high diversity make the application of lean principles increasingly difficult. Also, customer satisfaction must be considered when improving service productivity, otherwise the positive long-term effects of a lean approach in service will be absent.
Practical implications – These findings are useful for organizations aiming to improve their service productivity. Particularly, lean principles are invaluable to increase efficiency and customer satisfaction for services with low diversity and low customer participation. This paper suggests a direction for the proper use of lean principles for different service types, and how efficiency and customer satisfaction are affected through a lean approach.
Originality/value – This study contributes to the research on service productivity and continues the discussion on prototypic characteristics of service and manufacturing orientations.
2013. Vol. 23, no 4, 291-304 p.