What does producing Toyotas have in common with managing a country club? If you’ve heard of Taiichi Ohno, you might know that his lean manufacturing system has been an inspiration for operations managers in areas far afield from building cars. His insights extend beyond the production line to any operation whatsoever, because they reveal some of the underlying common texture of all purposeful human activity (also known as work), and foster productivity by eliminating waste in all its forms.

But what if your business is leisure? What would look like waste on the factory floor is actually exactly what you’re selling at a country club. So if you set out to eliminate waste in a country club operation, are you destroying the essence of the service? Let’s take a look at some of the forms of muda (無駄), or waste, identified by Ohno, and see whether they apply.

Transportation

When a product is being moved around without any value being added in the process, this process will drain resources from your operation quicker than any other.

A country club is a big place. Traversing an eighteen-hole golf course on foot can take hours. Is that transportation muda? The golfer’s experience (your product) is being moved around the course, but for most golfers, this transportation is part of the game. As long as the path through the course doesn’t force them through an area that interrupts or degrades the experience, golfers are not going to perceive this as waste.

It’s more interesting to think about the layout of the facilities that supplement and support the golfers’ experience. Can they get to discreetly located restrooms when they need to, or get a drink when they want it? Or would they have to walk a long way, interrupting the game?

Of course, on the back end of your Food and Beverage operations, the concept of transportation has a more traditional application. If you’re overstocking your beverage carts, for instance, you’re moving products around needlessly without adding value, risking breakage, spoilage, and loss.

Inventory

Anything that you’ve purchased or produced at some cost, but isn’t getting closer to turning into revenue is inventory. This could be slow-moving items in your pro-shop, or ingredients bought too soon before preparation. But it could also be a service facility under construction, an under-utilized employee, or a landscaped plot that the golfers never see.

More on the other muda next time.

The problems of waste in a leisure service like a country club are real. The solution may not always be to engineer a maximally efficient solution for everything. But the structure of the problem is the same, and the insights of lean manufacturing have a lot of traction on the green.