The Continuous Improvement Blog

3 global brands winning at customer satisfaction with lean management

Written by Colin McArdle on 21 Mar 2018

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For anyone in the business of providing a product or service to customers, satisfied customers are the priority. Especially in today’s increasingly competitive and disruptive environment.

Companies across a diverse range of industries - including manufacturing, retail, financial services, healthcare and even education - have reaped the benefits of applying Lean to meet (and exceed) customer needs.

In this blog post, we home in on three global brands internationally recognised for having built and adapted their business operations around a Lean methodology. We explore how Lean has enabled them to consistently achieve high customer satisfaction levels around the world.

Amazon

Ever wondered how Amazon manages to get it so right, all the time? From accurate product recommendations, to next day delivery with Amazon Prime, to Amazon Dash enabling us to reorder our favourite products at the simple push of a button. The tech giant has raised the bar for customer satisfaction.

Former head of global operations Marc Onetto says the spirit of Lean management has always been at the centre of the company. Writing for McKinsey, Onetto explains, “Since the day he created Amazon, Jeff Bezos has been totally customer-centric. He knew that customers would not pay for waste - and that focus on waste prevention is a fundamental concept of Lean.”

Amazon can attribute the application of a number of Lean principles, tools and techniques to their ability to consistently meet the ever-increasing demands of their customers.

They follow the Lean principle of autonomation; keep people for high-value, complex work and use machines to support those tasks. They enforce standard work, combining the elements of a job into the most effective sequence for efficient production. They have also implemented the andon-cord for eliminating defects. This is where in the case of a repetitive defect, a customer service agent has the power to take the product off the website until the defect has been fixed.

And Kaizen - the philosophy of continuous improvement to maximise efficiency and match or exceed customer needs - governs the way the company runs. Warehouses process more than 35 orders every second, which is almost unheard of in the retail space. And every distribution centre has a manager dedicated to ensuring continuous improvement in the workflow.

Given the size and scale of Amazon’s operations, the implementation of Lean has been central to enabling them to meet (and exceed) customer expectations. If your company has just a small fraction of the volume as Amazon, just imagine what applying some of these Lean tools and techniques could do for your own operations and customer satisfaction levels.

Nike

No one can deny Nike’s reputation as one of the top sportswear manufacturers in the world. And they’re a powerhouse when it comes to advertising.

But their ability to be a market leader is also thanks to building a Lean culture and focus on continuous improvement. In fact, Nike reigns as one of the top 10 Lean manufacturing companies in the world.

Nike’s Lean philosophy is ‘Make Today Better’, and it’s evident in every one of their facilities. Employees are trained in continuous improvement and empowered to improve operations. 

They first shared the significant benefits they gained from Lean in 2012 in their ‘FY10/11 Sustainable Business Performance Summary’ document. The report revealed they had gained a 50% reduction in defect rates, 40% faster lead times, a 20% improvement in productivity, and a 30% reduction in time taken to introduce a new model. 

All this means Nike can provide high-quality, customisable products, on time. So at a fundamental level, it's no surprise Nike have such a loyal customer base.

Toyota

This is where it all began. The Lean manufacturing philosophy was derived mostly from the Toyota Production System (TPS), a production system steeped in the philosophy of the elimination of all waste. So it’s no real surprise that they still practice what so many preach and remain one of the top Lean manufacturing companies in the world.

Toyota simply wouldn’t be what it is today without Lean. By creating a Lean learning culture where employees at all levels are focused on continuous improvement in everything they do, every day, Toyota has achieved tremendous growth and success.

Value Stream Mapping (VSM), standard work and policy deployment to align company goals and Lean strategies are key to their success. And continuous improvement is so important that there are always a percentage of shop floor workers focused on this full-time. Toyota also place significant importance on making sure their key suppliers also follow Lean processes, recognising them as an important part of the extended value stream.

All this is reflected in their customer satisfaction levels. In the UK last year they were the highest-ranked automotive brand in the UK Customer Satisfaction Index (UKSCI), and placed 24th overall against all UK companies.

These global companies have seen monumental outcomes from implementing Lean in their organisations - with loyal, highly satisfied customers being the ultimate accomplishment. Just imagine what implementing Lean could do for your business.

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Topics: lean, Lean manufacturing

Colin McArdle

Written by Colin McArdle

Colin McArdle, the Founder and Managing Director of Kaizen Kulture is a Lean and Six Sigma Master Black Belt who has over 30 years industry experience. Kaizen Kulture's mission is to be true to the ethos of continuous improvement.