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Process improvement in the service industry

Jack Worboys,

April 22nd, 2024


In the realm of service-based work, identifying improvement opportunities and envisioning potential savings can be a daunting task. Unlike in manufacturing environments where processes are physically visible, service-based workflows often involve intangible elements like data manipulation, form submissions, and inbox management. This invisibility can obscure inefficiencies, making it challenging to initiate productive improvement discussions.

The Challenge of Unseen Processes

Many teams find themselves ensnared in unproductive cycles, grappling with specific problems while overlooking broader opportunities for enhancement. Common grievances include outdated IT infrastructure and opaque workflows that hinder progress. However, despite these hurdles, there exists a pathway to transformative change.

Shedding Light on the Process

By setting aside preconceptions and meticulously mapping out the process, a wealth of insights can be unearthed. Delving into the intricacies of each step reveals valuable data: How long does each task take? Where are the bottlenecks? How frequently do errors occur, and what are their repercussions? Engaging in these discussions often illuminates aspects of the workflow previously overlooked or misunderstood.

Quantifying Problems, Maximizing Gains

Through this process, issues within the workflow come to the forefront, allowing for quantification and prioritization. While individual time savings may seem insignificant, their cumulative impact is profound. For instance, shaving off 15 minutes from a monthly process, multiplied across multiple employees and occurrences, translates to substantial time savings annually.

Rethinking Rework

In service industries, rework—typically associated with manufacturing—is pervasive. Yet, by implementing incremental improvements, organizations can mitigate rework rates, thereby enhancing operational efficiency. Even marginal reductions in rework can yield substantial productivity increases, fundamentally reshaping capacity requirements.

Taking Action: Mapping for Progress

The first step toward meaningful change is collaborative process mapping, involving all stakeholders. By meticulously documenting workflows, pinpointing areas of inefficiency, and establishing timelines, organizations can identify targeted improvements with proven waste-reduction benefits.

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