Lean services: a systematic review

Shradha Gupta (Department of Management Studies, Malaviya National Institute of Technology, Jaipur, India)
Monica Sharma (Department of Management Studies, Malaviya National Institute of Technology, Jaipur, India)
Vijaya Sunder M. (Department of Management Studies, Indian Institute of Technology, IIT-Madras, Chennai, India)

International Journal of Productivity and Performance Management

ISSN: 1741-0401

Publication date: 14 November 2016



The purpose of this paper is to highlight the importance of Lean methodology through an exhaustive literature review, and its implications and application in the service industry right from its initiation in 1990s till date.


The paper summarises the evolution of Lean in services and has systematically classified the reviewed literature in four dimensions, namely time, publisher, region and content. Further under “time” dimension, the literature is classified into Pre-Lean era, Lean awareness era, Lean Exploration era and Lean implementation era. Under the “content” dimension, the categories include theoretical foundation, frameworks/models and application/case studies.


The analysis inferred; Lean is gaining roads in services, though the research is still at nascent stage. Lean is applicable in services though transfer of Lean manufacturing principles to services has certain limitations because of the characteristics of services. The need is to focus on process difference between services and manufacturing. Respect for people and employment engagement is critical to Lean in service. The authors identified the necessity to standardise the Lean service definition, principles, and tools and to develop guidelines for structured implementation in service industry.

Research limitations/implications

Though multiple databases have been taken-up but that does not assume that the literature presented in this paper is by any means comprehensive. Development of a standard model/framework for Lean services is critical for future research. Rigorous industry-specific studies, specifically in developing nations are another area for future research. Future studies could analyse the impact of join applications and possible links between Lean service and other approaches like TQM, Six Sigma, etc., with an aim of process improvement.

Practical implications

This paper would serve as a resource for Lean practitioners as well as researchers as a fundamental platform, contributing to Lean body of knowledge.

Social implications

Service industry has special significance to the society in large. Many services including governments, public interest services, non-profit organisations, healthcare, banking, consulting, etc., has a significant share across markets. Lean being a proven methodology for successful process improvements has to be looked at from a services perspective. This paper helps in such interest.


Publications reviewing the adoption of Lean in services is scarce in literature. This paper serves as an excellent resource for research on the subject and will facilitate academicians and practitioners to objectively understand Lean in service sector.



Gupta, S., Sharma, M. and Sunder M., V. (2016), "Lean services: a systematic review", International Journal of Productivity and Performance Management, Vol. 65 No. 8, pp. 1025-1056. https://doi.org/10.1108/IJPPM-02-2015-0032

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