Improving the Service or Support Processes – The KAIZEN™ Way

Improving the Service or Support Processes – The KAIZEN™ Way

COVID-19 is an unprecedented public health emergency affecting every industry. While some have stronger defenses, others will struggle to reset to a normal that is constantly redefined—and redesigned. Consumer demand patterns will shift. Global supply chains will be re-routed. Governments will make even more significant interventions. And companies will have to continuously adapt to new and uncertain market conditions.  Even as societies and businesses race to reopen, the global pandemic still poses significant problems. 

During the lockdown period, much has been and is being talked about how companies can re-start and improve their operations. In today’s scenario where the world of manufacturing is full of jargons of increasing Productivity on the shop floor, improving processes, developing people, and on the other hand service sector is constantly talking about customer satisfaction and customer experience, nobody is witnessing the elephant in the room as far as improvement in the processes is concerned.

We are talking about service or support functions/processes in the manufacturing and service sectors. These support processes are of paramount importance and play a significant role in the functioning of the core operational processes. 

Every process whether it is operation or support can be improved by removing non-value-added activities or wastes. In a normal business scenario, if we find the reasons for customer dissatisfaction or customer complaints, we will get the following reasons. 

Reasons attributable to Organization (70%) 

o Delivery schedule not met 

o Wrong place of delivery 

o Wrong part 

o Incorrect advice is given 

o Incorrect invoicing 

o Packaging fault 

o Insufficient instruction or manual 

o General service 

Reasons attributable to product (30%) 

o Dimensional fault 

o Functional fault 

o Visual complaint 

As we can notice from above that service processes if not handled inaccurately can contribute to 70% of customer complaints which is a very high number. Due to these reasons, there is an essential need to improve the support processes in industries. Every support process in any sector can be improved through the implementation of KAIZEN™. 

When we say we need to improve the support processes, what we mean is to -  

1. Improve the quality of the process by reducing the errors through following standards and proper process control. 

2. Increase the process flow speeds and shorten the turn-around times thorough fewer interfaces and handovers, reduction of bottlenecks and establishing service level agreements. 

3. Increase profitability by decreasing the operational costs by increasing productivity, better space utilization and lower office material cost. 

4. Increased Flexibility by reducing interfaces through qualified and multi-skilled employees. 

5. Focus on innovation by motivating people to take more responsibility. 

To achieve the above-mentioned parameters, we need to implement 6 steps of Service Management. 

Step 1: Self-Organization

This is the foundation for the KAIZEN™ journey. The objective is to create a strong foundation through awareness of the presence of wastes in day to day processes and carrying out the successful 5S campaign. Identifying wastes and eliminating it will make the process leaner and at the same time implementing 5S will help in creating and maintaining safe, organized, clean and high performing workplace.  

These two initiatives have a significant impact on company culture and on the company’s competitiveness as a culture improve and costs start dropping. In today’s world, for remaining competitive we as businesses need to make some necessary changes like 

Continuously improve our processes 

Help employees to develop and grow and become people-centred. 

Reduce overhead costs. 

Optimize process Lead Times.  

Need to make work more effective by eliminating waste. 

Studies conducted initially reveal that out of the total available work time, an average of 38% is lost in doing non-value adding activities which are 2 days per week per employee. So, there should be an effort to eliminate these waste or non-value adding activities. To eliminate these, we first need to identify these wastes. There are 16 different types of wastes or losses in support or service processes and they are classified into 4 streams. 

Work time loss (Stream 1) 

a. Waiting time (Waste #1): Waiting for colleagues, decisions, information, material, waiting through IT systems, IT availability, Non- contactable colleagues. It can be measured in terms of hours per year. 

Search time: this type of loss or waste happens when we search for files, Paperwork, Information, People, Office material. It can be measured in terms of hours per year. 

Interruption: This can be summed up as disruption for short unplanned meetings, noise disruptions, environmental things, Phone disturbance, technical availability or non-availability. It can be measured in terms of hours per year. 

Information overload: Long meetings, Paperwork, full desks, and In-trays, Full hard drives, Archives, Binders, long time to keep the information, advertisement. It can be measured in terms of hours per year. 

2. Work System loss:  

a. Environment: Excessive material, too much paper, excess noise, no trash concept, trash is not sorted for disposal, equipment left running and not on standby. It can be calculated in dollars per year. 

Non-clarity of information: Missing information, long decisions, unnecessary rules or procedures, double checks, unclear responsibilities, many interfaces and handovers, long search times, double handlings. 

Unclear targets: No policy deployment to the level of an employee, no personal targets, missing or unclear departmental targets, insufficient target visualization, conflicting targets, missing feedback. 

Technology: System error (Computer or printer), defective equipment, copier jams and faults, wrong or insufficient permissions or system access. 

Business Process Loss: 

a. Inventory: Large range and excess inventory of office material, obsolesce, the time required to process and perform the documentation due to excess inventory. 

Handovers: Functional handover, missing process description, lack of process clarity, poor flow and continuity, data transfer errors, manual importing and exporting. 

Work procedure: Unused formulas, missing workflows, insufficient training, missing documentation, bad delegation, old processes or policy, excessive bureaucracy, no SOP. 

d. Errors:
Time lost in verifying or committing mistakes due to poor master data, out of date parts, lists, a mistake in the documentation, standards, bad data quality, wrong documents, and inaccurate bills of material.  


a. Creativity: Unused creativity, missing improvement data management, low number of improvement workshops, fewer benchmark activities, lack of “can do” culture, un-tapped knowledge. 

Knowhow: Documentation, qualification matrix, from target to qualification, regular training, process coaches, Deputy matrix, training gaps, lack of transparency. 

Health: Losses due to improper work ergonomics, environmental noise, excessive or less light, stress. 

These 16 losses must be identified, and initiatives should be taken during the 5S campaign to eliminate or reduce them. 

5S is a methodology of creating and maintaining safe, organized, clean and high performing workplace. Following are the steps to be followed. 

1. Seiri (Sort) – Sort out and separate which is not needed, red tag it and dispose of which is not needed. 

2. Seiton (Set in order) – Put what is needed in order so that they are ready for use when needed. 

3. Seiso (Shine) – Clean workplace, equipment and prevent defects. 

4. Seiketsu (Standardize) – Make the above 3 points a routine and practice continuously. 

5. Shitsuke (Sustain) – Discipline yourself and train others in doing so. 

Step 2: Cooperation 

After we have created the foundation of this journey by eliminating waste and implementing 5S, it is must continue this practice and for that, we need to prepare standards. Whenever a new person comes, he should be clear on what he/she must do; how he/she must perform an activity and what should its frequency be.  

We need Standards so that 

We can perform repetitive tasks in the best-known way. 

Quality and quantity of the work are consistent. 

The basis for improvement can be provided 

To provide a basis for training new employees 

Standard is the best, simplest, safest way to perform an activity known today. If we don’t have a standard, then whatever improvements we make will not be sustained and very fast we will be back to our original stage. Standards should be simple, unique, certain, feasible and useful. Standards also make our system predictable. This helps in improving our team cooperation. 

Step 3: Process Mapping  

There is a very famous saying that ‘We know we have a problem, but we don’t know where it is!’ we have found this saying true in many of the support functions and their processes. This is because we have never examined our support processes as we have the perception that they are not core operations and hence should be left aside. In many office scenarios, processes are not visible and not be clarified through observation. Due to the lack of transparency, the staff often does not know what their direct neighbor does.  

It is very important to break the walls so that we can build a seamless flow of the processes. For this, we need to map the entire process and make the office processes visible and that’s where Process Mapping comes into the picture. For this purpose, processes are first described by those who are involved and then wastes are sought thereafter.  

The important step here is to select the right Process for mapping, it must be known accurately where the process starts and ends. Find all the data related to each process step. Then map the actual process, who does what and processing times. Identify bottlenecks and determine the potential for improvement, gather ideas for improvement, prepare a plan and execute it. So, we save costs and reduce Lead Times through the approach of process mapping. 

Step 4: Optimization 

Whatever gains we have received so far by practising the above steps, we need to lock those by optimizing our team efforts. It can be understood broadly under 5 parameters 

Visual Management – Visual management is displaying important information so that we can interpret any information quickly and effectively and take decisions accordingly. It helps to depict parameters, trends and strategic data. It helps us to monitor and control various KPIs and to identify hazards, reference points and standards. 

Policy deployment – Deployment means cascading, we need to cascade company objectives to the site, site to each department and from department to individuals or groups. After deployment is done, we need to set up a system so that we can track these objectives, measure and monitor them to improve them further. Then prepare a policy with the help of  KAIZEN™TM scorecard. 

Team board – A board is made for the individual team containing the names of members of respective teams, KPI trend charts, problem-solving sheet. This gives the team to discuss the daily problems faced and also find a solution to them. 

Introduction of objectives – This step highlights the importance of setting objectives for teams. 

Management of Metrics – Management of metrics is needed to know how we are performing. We must measure the KPIs, compare the expected and actual state through simple visualization. 

Step 5: Flexible working 

Flexibility is need for the hour. We need to empower people to work in flexible teams. The goal to increase flexibility is to improve communication and process flow, decrease disruptions, better use of creative potential, increase space flexibility, improve project productivity, and optimize the whole system by consideration of the individual working sphere. This means designing offices which will have a high degree of interaction and mobility. It can also have movable and flexible meeting rooms, informal meeting spaces, flexible multi-functional space environments, open transparent regional structures. There are many advantages of open meeting structures and hence they should be promoted. The solution adopted by almost all the companies in the world recently - ‘work from home’ -  is also a part of flexible working. 

Step 6: Become “Best in Class” 

We ‘Best in class’ by benchmarking.  Benchmarking is a systematic method by which organizations can measure themselves against the best industry practices. It promotes superior performance by providing an organized framework through which organizations learn how the "best in class" can do things, understand how these best practices differ from their own and implement change to close the gap.  

Benchmarking is the systematic search for best practices, innovative ideas, and highly effective operating practices. Benchmarking considers the experience of others and uses it. Indeed, it is a common-sense proposition to learn from others what they do right and then imitate it to avoid reinventing the wheel. 

These were the 6 steps to achieve the objectives of Total Service Management. Typically after implementing these steps, the following results can be achieved 

Productivity can be boosted by over 50% 

Cycle time can be reduced by 60% 

The time required to search multiple documents, items can be brought down by 80% 

We can save 30% of the space. 

In Summary, improving offices processes or support processes should not be an afterthought, but significant potential drivers for gaining competitive advantage. 



 Ajit Bhist, Support Consultant at Kaizen Institute

Paresh Chaudhary, R & KD Member and Support Consultant at Kaizen Institute

About Kaizen Institute 

Kaizen Institute is the original and premier provider of KAIZEN™ services of Change Management, Business Excellence, Operational Excellence and Lean. 

We support companies of all sizes in all market segments, providing them with a sustainable, competitive advantage. Our Vision is Improving the world with Everyone, Everywhere, Every Day – The KAIZEN™ Way. “KAIZEN™ means Change for the better.” 

Kaizen Institute is a global organization that provides consulting and training services to companies represented in Europe, the Americas, Asia-Pacific, the Middle East, and Africa. We are currently operating in 60+ Countries for 35 years. 

Want to know more about our services? Click Here 

Recent Posts

Daily Work Management and its Importance!
Economic Revival – Are we Ready?
Extracting Cash from Working Capital through Lean Distribution

arrow up