A Lean Business Idea?


Ok, so as much as I gripe about non-lean companies sometimes, I really do like to try to think positively. Working in lean healthcare certainly gives me those moments, particularly when I read about success stories and lean momentum building (as in the case of the UK this week).

I was thinking this morning about all of the different types of maintenance that have to be taken care of with a house. Ideally, a good part of that maintenance should follow the lean Total Productive Maintenance (“TPM”) model of:

  • Doing maintenance pro-actively before things break
  • Doing maintenance based on a time or cycle-based schedule

I could easily list a number of things that fall into this category: lawn, A/C & furnance, bug/termite treatments, gutter cleaning, dryer vent cleaning, etc. Many of these maintenance items are small costs that help protect against the risk of relatively large costs. For example, having your A/C unit cleaned can help prolong the life of the unit, delaying the cost of buying a new air conditioner. Cleaning out a dryer vent (to remove lint) can help prevent a fire (a cost and safety issue).

Some of these things take money. Some of them just require tracking and monitoring, as maintenance activities would require at a factory or some other lean site.

So the business idea, just brainstorming, would be a homeowner service that tracks maintenance tasks and items for you and 1) reminds you via email about stuff you do yourself (change air duct filters) or 2) schedules service for those items that a professional has to do.

It seems like you could use simple automation and IT to track this and communicate with people. Another idea would be to pay a “flat fee” for the maintenance service, spread out into a monthly fee (similar to a “home warranty” that you get when you buy a home) and maybe baked into the mortgage payment.

In a way, this sounds like “OnStar” for your home — GM will now remotely monitor your vehicle and email you when it needs service. Would something like this fly for homes? Is it already being done? Would people pay for it?

What other ways you could make a service like that “lean”? Any thoughts, click “comments” to chime in.

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Mark Graban
Mark Graban is an internationally-recognized consultant, author, and professional speaker, and podcaster with experience in healthcare, manufacturing, and startups. Mark's new book is The Mistakes That Make Us: Cultivating a Culture of Learning and Innovation. He is also the author of Measures of Success: React Less, Lead Better, Improve More, the Shingo Award-winning books Lean Hospitals and Healthcare Kaizen, and the anthology Practicing Lean. Mark is also a Senior Advisor to the technology company KaiNexus.


  1. At first glance, it looks like they do tracking of recall issues and tracking of items for insurance purposes. Those might be good things to have in a home maintenance service.

  2. It’s like an online weight-loss tracking program. It sounds good, but doubt people would actually use it. If they can’t keep track of their own stuff, they won’t take the time to enter all their stuff into a computer.

  3. Right, so let’s take the focus away from online tracking of stuff and back to my original idea.

    I think it would be very easy on a homeowner if you moved in and were presented with a “Standard PM Schedule” that this service could help you manage. For me, I’ve had to discover maintenance items as I go during the first year in my most recent house. For example, coming from Arizona, where we had desert landscaping, I had no idea how to care for a lawn. I outsourced most of that (except the actual mowing, which I can do).

    But, that’s one more “vendor” to manage, the lawn maintenance guy. I think a lean solution “not wasting my time” would reduce the number of vendors to, ideally, one.

  4. I think an easy way of implementing this may be with an online calendar service such as 30boxes.com or Google Calendar.

    With Google, you can send text messages to your phone as reminders, and even have a “daily digest” sent to your email every morning. Granted this relies on people using the service, but since this is just a calendar service it shouldn’t be a difficult transition for those already using it.

  5. That’s a good point about Google. It’s just that, as a new homeowner, I might not know what maintenance items to populate into the calendar — that’s one value that a service like this might provide.


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