Contrary to what the term implies, lean manufacturing is not simply a system of reducing expenses or "trimming fat". The central goal of lean practice is the elimination of muda, activities that do not add value to the customer. By extension, this means that investments in activities that provide more value to the customer are valuable contributions and should be prioritized. These investments provide excellent returns through improved profitability and result in customers that are more inclined to stay with you. Here are three lean practices worthy of investment:
1. Invest in personal customer service
Glitches inevitably happen. People want to know that they can quickly and effectively resolve an issue when it arises. Many times a problem with the product or service can result in greater customer loyalty if it is handled in a maner that exceeds the expectations of the customer. Think of your own experience here. Do prefer to deal with your cable company or Amazon?
2. Invest in technology that automates the little things
Save your customers time by eliminating steps that have long been taken for granted as required:
- Enable self-scheduling instead of requiring a phone call to place an order
- Provide web-based information about the status of the order
- Provide product tracking services
Being ahead of the curve will not only improve immediate customer satisfaction, in some cases it will contribute to your brand identity. In Win Customers With Track and Trace, we described how UPS distinguished itself years ago by offering package tracking in the early days of the Internet. The company's brand still benefits from this today even though it is now standard.
3. Sell products that deliver information
As the application of the Internet in business evolves into the so-called Internet of Things, products will become networked just as people have become over the past 10 years. This will require that manufacturers redefine the nature of what they offer customers. Instead of selling static products, they will need to sell dynamic products that:
- Include manufacturing history
- Self-diagnose issues
- Initiate maintenance recommendations
- Provide feedback to the user
We see this already in cars. My Toyota informs me when it is time to get serviced and, when it is in the shop, the technician reviews the diagnostic report produced by sensors and microprocessors built into the cars.
In the short term, adoption of these practices by infrastructure manufacturers will produce happier customers. In the long term it will create lean infrastructure, an integrated system of "smart infrastructure" that will make much more productive use of taxpayer dollars.
Manufacturers that embrace this early will be the long term winners and produce happier customers along the way. We invite you to learn more in our report: 17 Ways Lean Manufacturing Increases Profits & Win Bids.
Our purpose at Idencia is to offer precast RFID tracking solutions that improve productivity throughout the value chain. Our subscription offering applies to products from the time of manufacture through end-of-life. As a cloud-hosted product tracking system that is seamless between manufacturers, contractors and asset managers, Idencia adds information value to all, eliminates redundancy and saves time. If you would like to learn more, click below.