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What can companies in the hospitality or constructions industry learn from manufacturing companies?

Updated: Aug 29, 2019




What do those three very different industries have in common?

The goal of all of them is actually to manufacture products to sell to their clients. They are manufacturing companies; what they differ in is the product.

Restaurants – they manufacture food,

Hotels – they produce services,

Construction companies – they build buildings, roads, installations…

Manufacturing companies – they provide everything else not produced by other industries, including those not listed here.

For many years now, manufacturing companies have been developing the idea of Lean Management. I will go as far as saying that the concept started by Toyota is so widely known and used by now that every manufacturing company has someone who knows it and tries to apply some of its tools or uses them successfully. Most of the training in Lean Management tools, all the examples and articles, are based on the companies from this industry.

Luckily this trend is slowly starting to change. There have been the first projects in the construction industry using the idea of Lean Management - building a new terminal at the Heathrow airport. That was the first project this big in Great Britain that was finished on time and within the planned budget. The same with building a railway and subway station next to the airport – Terminal 5. Another example is the Olympic Village in London – its construction was cheaper than originally expected and finished ahead of the schedule.

Let’s look at a restaurant like at a manufacturing company. There’s the production hall – the kitchen, the warehouse, the goods, the stock, the employees. One of the assumptions of Lean Management is to eliminate wasting – of time, of materials, of the employees’ intellectual property. Can we use the Lean tools here as well? Of course, we can. Properly selected and adapted Lean Management tools significantly reduce wasting, increase employee and client satisfaction, and in turn increase profits.

More on specific tools, together with examples of their use, can be found in the following posts.

I’ve been using one of the fundamental principles of Lean for years, which is to ACTIVELY LISTEN TO PEOPLE. Sadly, it is omitted by so many, to the point of actually seeing it as useless.

Not so long ago, I participated in the annual internal auditor conference hosted by IIA. One of the panels devoted to embezzlement mentioned specific research performed at one of the big corporations. The point was to understand people’s motives that drive them to steal. In short, the study consisted of asking the question „If you knew you would get caught 10 years from now, would you steal something now?” some of the subjects answered YES, those people were asked another question „If you knew you would get caught 1 year from now, would you steal something now?”, some of the subjects answered YES again. They kept asking questions to those who answered YES, until the last item „If you knew you would get caught red-handed, would you steal?” And to everyone’s surprise, there were people who answered YES. After running more research, it turned out that those who made it to the end, usually had a difficult situation at home and felt very unappreciated by their employer. And the way for those people to avoid stealing was simply to ask the question „How do you feel? Is everything okay?” And to listen to the subordinate.

But that’s a different topic, which is likely to be discussed later on my blog.


Back to the Lean, no matter what industry you work in, the benefits of Lean Management are within your reach. Plenty of times, all it takes in small companies is to read and understand the rules of using the Lean tools to be able to improve the processes in our company significantly. The Internet is filled with information on KAIZEN, 5S, Just in time, Kanban, Six Sigma etc. Hundreds of training are offered by training companies. Not all of them will be directed towards you. Not all of them will serve their purpose in your company, but as the manager of your company you should know what kind of tools are used by the best in their work to be genuinely able to consciously say, „This is not suitable for my company because…” like that, and be able to provide reason. Like you can select the right desk, drill, car or dishwasher for your employees, you should also at least be aware of what you have at your disposal to reach out your hand at the right time in the right direction.

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