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WBS Research Asks - Can The Public Sector Become Lean?

Research by Dr Zoe Radnor and Mr Paul Walley of Warwick Business School has found that the methods employed by Toyota, to make their production system "Lean", can be applied to public sector services. This could have a positive impact on employee morale, customer satisfaction and process efficiency.

In a project funded by the Scottish Executive, the Warwick Business School team investigated eight case examples and three pilot studies of the implementation of lean thinking in public sector organisations as well as surveying many other organisations. The applications included parts of the National Health Service, Local Government services and Government Agencies.

Public sector use of Lean generated a number of outcomes. These included improvements in customer waiting times, service performance, processing times, customer flow and quality; achieving more for less; generating a better understanding of the process; better joined-up working; improved use of performance data; increased staff satisfaction and confidence, and embedding a continuous improvement culture. The scale of these changes can be substantial, with waiting times or throughput times halving as a consequence of the adoption of lean. Specific examples include:

Halving the end-to-end time for planning applications.
Cutting end-to-end time for adaptations to housing for disabled people from over 200 days to 12 days.
Reducing payroll errors from 75% to 2%.
Reducing backlogs in lost and found departments by 80%.
Reducing the time taken in report preparation in the Justice system from 77 to 6 days.
The percentage of patients being met within the target of 62 days rose from around 40% to 75-80%.
A reduction in the average time to first NHS appointment from 23 to 12 days.
A reduction in the time patients spent in treatment of 48%.

"Like experience elsewhere, Lean in the public sector is not a quick fix, yielding results steadily over a long implementation time span. Implementation cannot be forced through to produce sustainable quick gains. The research recommends a steady process of implementation," says Paul Walley.

"However," Dr Zoe Radnor warns, "The manufacturing approach to Lean needs to be considerably adapted for use in public services. We also suggest that many organisations are not ready to adopt Lean immediately, as they do not possess the change management experience or the right leadership style to make the transition straight away."

Further information is available from
The full research report is available from the link below

For further information please contact:

Vin Hammersley, Director of Communications
Warwick Business School
office 024 7652 4124
mobile 079 8595 6624

16th June 2006