In this post, we discuss another key difference between service and manufacturing. Previously, we discussed how production and consumption is different in service versus manufacturing; we also covered the intangible differences between service and manufacturing, the topic of “inventory” and inventory in service versus inventory in manufacturing; then, we discussed the concept of variation in service versus variation in manufacturing.
In today’s post, I’ll tackle the concept of “variety” and what that means in the context of a service operation.
What is Variety?
Unlike variation, “variety” refers to the many different outcomes a process can have. Variety in Services is what creates the complexity. For example, in a manufacturing environment, variety could be understood as the following:
- This stereo is available in black, white, and blue.
- These coffee tables are available in these 4 sizes and in these 5 colors.
Do you notice a pattern? The products above have variety or options, but they are a closed set of options. The stereo is only available in 3 colors. The coffee table is only available in 4 sizes and 5 colors. No more; no less.
That is a key aspect of variety in a manufacturing context: variety is discrete and has a closed set of options.
Series on Difference Between Service Versus ManufacturingGo here for details on applying Lean for Service Operations. For other posts in this series, please refer to the table below:
Variety in Service
On the other hand, variety in a service context has a universe of options. Here are some examples:
- This morning, the Barista said “hello”, but last week he said “yo” and the week before he ignored me. What will he say next week? How will he treat me tomorrow?
- The flight attendant gave me peanuts for my snack and tossed them to me; but last week when I flew on the same airline, the flight attendant gently handed me my peanuts and treated me very well. I wonder how the flight attendant will treat me next week when I go on a business trip?
- In our last software development project, my boss happily led our daily standups – he was on time, happy, and inspirational and held us all accountable in a healthy way. But since he and his wife divorced, our daily standups are sometimes good and sometimes bad. It just depends on his mood that morning.
Do you see the difference? An open set of responses are possible in the context of a service operation; but, a closed set of options are available in a manufacturing operation.
Again, we are dealing with intangible aspects in service; whereas in manufacturing, we’re dealing with tangible aspects that can be counted and explained easily.