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“Lean” service: in defense of a production‐line approach

David E. Bowen (Thunderbird, The American Graduate School of International Management, World Business Department, Glendale, USA)
William E. Youngdahl (Thunderbird, The American Graduate School of International Management, World Business Department, Glendale, USA)

International Journal of Service Industry Management

ISSN: 0956-4233

Article publication date: 1 August 1998

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Abstract

The desirability of transferring manufacturing logic and practices to service operations, strongly advocated by Levitt (1972; 1976) in two classic Harvard Business Review articles two decades ago, is now commonly challenged by both service researchers and practitioners. We defend a “production‐line approach to service” by arguing that services can “reindustrialize” by applying revised, progressive manufacturing technologies. We describe how services businesses such as Taco Bell, Southwest Airlines, and Shouldice Hospital have mastered what we call “lean” service ‐ the application of lean manufacturing principles to their own service operations. Overall, services tend to be innovation laggards, compared to manufacturing. Looking ahead, mass customization can be viewed as the convergence of service and manufacturing logic.

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Citation

Bowen, D.E. and Youngdahl, W.E. (1998), "“Lean” service: in defense of a production‐line approach", International Journal of Service Industry Management, Vol. 9 No. 3, pp. 207-225. https://doi.org/10.1108/09564239810223510

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MCB UP Ltd

Copyright © 1998, MCB UP Limited