Get me a Lean Latte, I mean Non-Fat Latte

4 – Coffee on the Double (registration required, but this link might work)

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.

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  1. […] has more of an association with top-down Taylorism, not real Lean, don’t you think? When the WSJ wrote about Starbucks and their efficiency experts in 2005, it didn’t sound like Lean to me. It sounded like “leave your brain at the door” […]

  2. […] this WSJ article (and my blog post) from a few years back about Starbucks and their efficiency efforts? Please check out my main blog […]

  3. […] also found an old blog posting of mine, from April 2005 about how Starbucks had “efficiency experts&#8221…. So much for relying on experts! I wonder if the experts thought things would be OK, but people at […]

  4. […] I don’t know any details (any Starbucks employees reading this, feel free to chime in). This WSJ article from 2005 is still pretty fascinating, on their attempts at operational improvement that seemed very expert […]

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