Lean Manufacturing-The Kaizen Journey

Kaizen Event #3 – Customer Service Department


Focus on processes and structure of the daily activities in Customer Service.

This 11 person kaizen team was purposely selected because of the diverse backgrounds in our industry. The first step was to exhaustively map the processes used in customer service for customer calls, paperwork flow, order entry, & the many other tasks which customer service is responsible for each day. This mapping exercise, though sometimes tedious, is a critical step in identifying “non –value ad” processes & working to ensure only “value ad” processes remain. Many bottlenecks and opportunities for improvement were identified during the mapping process. The final goal of the Kaizen event was to create & implement a visual reporting system to ensure that customer service could clearly gauge their “real time” status at any moment of the day.


Following the mapping exercise, the team split into 3 groups. Each focused on a specific area of the Kaizen process.

Production Flow Team – This team worked to create efficiency & simplification in the physical layout of the CS department. The changes were made to align with the new “value ad” process flow for daily activities. A few of the changes this team made were:
• Move work stations, replace panel walls and condense tables.
• Relocate copier, fax and printers.
• Condense and organize file cabinets.
• Remove desk and various computers while setting up for new work cell placement.

5S Team-This team assessed the work areas for each customer service associate & created a “standardized” layout to ensure that all team members have uniform processes in place. Forms, files, etc. were organized, re-located, & labeled to improve efficiencies for common daily activities. A few of the areas this team focused on:
• Construct performance management boards: Wholesale, Communication, Fabrication.
• 5S entire department – Clean House!
• Standardize desk areas – create visual office supply area.

Visual Management Team-This team created the tools necessary to “sustain” the changes long term. This is a key component to ensuring the transformation becomes a long term cultural shift, rather than a short term activity shift.
• Process Flow Map – “Future State.”
• Document standard work process.
• Update C.S. reference books.
• Standardize resources list via links.
• Training for all C.S. employees on new system.

The team had a blast! It was more difficult than we anticipated at first because we were working on paper flow which can be difficult to visualize. The end result was a complete success. We accomplished our goals and since have increased this department’s production by 15%! I highly recommend bringing the lean philosophy into the office and work on eliminating unnecessary steps. Your customers will be happy and you will gain efficiencies.