Get me a Lean Latte, I mean Non-Fat Latte
From Today's Wall St. Journal, the lean parallels are hard to miss, although it's presented in terms of “efficiency” experts. The only thing I would question in their process improvement is this: “Why did engineers have to notice obvious inefficiencies in the drink making process?” That's the difference, I think, between “lean” and “Toyota Production System.” Lean takes out the inefficiencies with experts, but TPS builds the ability of teams to solve the problems themselves.
Starbucks has focused on taking time out of their processes. I also like how they hired a “floater” position – as it says below, yes, it increased costs, but it also reduced time greatly (which leads to increased revenue by serving more customers faster). That's a similar fight we often have over material handlers — it's not a direct role, but it helps the core production team be that much more effective.