Letting lean into your supply chain – part of the Lean supply chain supplement

Posted on 6 Jul 2011 by The Manufacturer

The concept of lean is often primarily associated with the hands-on manufacturing processes. However, the extension of lean into ‘The Big Five’ – transportation, design, procurement warehousing as well as manufacturing is just as, if not more important. Mark Eaton, managing director of Amnis Ltd and fellow of supply chain strategy group IOM explains how.

Lean is an approach to improving businesses that focuses on the elimination of activities that don’t add value to customers. In a commercial setting, this is normally indicated by whether or not the customer would be prepared to pay for the activity. The traditional approach is to understand the end-to-end process within an organisation – the value stream.

Lean in the Big Five
Many people are so used to hearing the term ‘lean manufacturing’ that they forget that without the extension into the supply chain, products would at best simply sit at the end of production lines and at worst not even existent, because no raw materials would be available to begin the manufacturing process. The lean supply chain is therefore about applying lean throughout the Big Five elements.

Lean in design
The incorporation of lean in the design area entails collaborative teams that often involve specialists from other organisations who provide technical input that is not available to a single design team. It also encompasses designing products that can be easily sourced and that minimise the part count. For some industries, it also includes design activities that lead to easy recycling or that minimizes energy usage.

The incorporation of lean in design results in reduced product costs, shorter product development times, easier supply and recycling and lower input costs. The design phase makes up around 90% of the overall cost of a product, and therefore has a major impact on the long-term financial performance of the whole supply chain.

Lean in procurement
During the procurement phase, lean supply chains come to life. Lean procurement is concerned with important activities such as rationalising the supplier base so that meaningful relationships can be formed with suppliers. Also, changes are implemented that reduce the time and cost involved in placing orders, while introducing flexibility in supply so that the processes are neither starved nor flooded with stock. Procurement is a two-way process – it involves suppliers and customers.

Making communication easier between the two, combined with selective introduction of technology to improve ordering and the introduction of changes reduces costs and increases the flexibility of the entire supply chain.

Lean in procurement leads to reduced purchasing costs, greater flexibility and fewer stock emergencies; meaning that the rest of the supply chain is lean-enabled.

Lean in manufacturing
Lean in manufacturing is extremely common.

What is less common is the consideration that lean manufacturing can be applied not just to factories, but also to areas such as production engineering and planning.

When lean is applied in manufacturing, it has a positive impact on the lead-time of the whole supply chain, as well as on product costs and quality.

Lean in warehousing
The lean concepts applicable to warehousing include reducing stock levels, increasing pick rates and accuracy and reducing damage, whether it be to staff or to products. The effective introduction of lean in the warehouse will incorporate concepts such as reducing movement distances and handling activities, eliminating delays in unloading and loading and focusing on delivering parts on time, in full (OTIF). Lean-enabled warehouses tend to have higher pick rates, lower returns and improved staff motivation.

Lean in transportation
Counterintuitively, efforts to improve customer service can have a major impact on the quality of shipping decisions. Failure to combine orders, using multiple shipping channels and a tendency towards expensive delivery options are symptoms of poor communication between the manufacturer and the transporter, and inefficiency in the transportation process.

Lean transportation is about introducing concepts like combined multi-stop loads, cross-docking, right sizing equipment and packaging solutions. It also involves developing relationships with the bigger transporters in order to reduce costs and improve delivery performance.

Challenges in the lean supply chain
The first and most obvious problem that people face when attempting to make improvements across an entire supply chain is a lack of robust and professional relationships with suppliers and customers. Another main problem is the chaotic and undefined processes that are the driving forces behind the wrong behaviours in every one of the Big Five elements. This is often compounded by a history of adversarial management styles that have created a supply chain culture that resists change, does not allow for open discussions and inhibits innovation.

We emphasize the phrase: “Overcoming these challenges is not easy”. There is no quick fix or a magic wand. Instead, we propose that there are seven elements to a lean supply chain that build up over time to deliver improved performance, reduced costs and greater flexibility for all organisations that are involved.

1. Remain focused on the voice of the ultimate customer. Think about what they would say was value-adding, and then eliminate anything else.

2. Understand the true end-to-end supply chain using value stream mapping.

3. Create a supply chain that flows, with activities being triggered only when required.

4. Design processes that are able to respond to volatility.

5. Introduce a culture of continuous improvement that is based on measures that drive the right behaviours and create openness and collaboration.

6. Find the suppliers that you can work with and change or eliminate as many of the rest of them as you can.

7. Build the capability of your team and those of your supply partners to enable them to understand how to get the benefits of a lean supply chain.

How the Institute of Operations Management can help
The Institute of Operations Management (IOM), in partnership with Amnis and Unipart provides a wide range of training and support options to help you develop a lean supply chain. Examples of the workshops we are running in 2011 that will help you benefit from the seven elements of a lean supply chain are detailed below:

Inventory Control Techniques
This course focuses on stock control for bought-in items, finished goods and general stores stock control.

It demonstrates ways to determine how to give the best customer service, reduce inventory investment, and assess and react to changing customer requirements. It also includes how to integrate the inventory effectively into the supply chain while maximising control without increasing workload.

12th–13th September

Accelerated Lean Skills Programme
This three-day programme takes participants from beginner to Green Belt in lean. Participants are required to produce a short post-training project to gain accreditation.

27th–29th September

Warehouse Management
This two-day course delivers the knowledge and understanding of the key elements of warehouse management practice that is fundamental to commercial organisations. It provides a greater insight into the role of the warehouse in today’s supply chain and how effective warehouse management can lead to increased profitability.

8th–9th November

Advances in Inventory Management
The seminar will look at how inventory management has developed over the last five to ten years. One dimension of this has been to align inventory management throughout the supply chain – from suppliers, through a logistics network, to end customers. Another dimension is the integration of lean with functions of warehouse management, transport and purchasing. The seminar will examine which new ideas, techniques and approaches have stuck and which have not.

22nd November
Due to the nature of this workshop, delegates from organisations that Unipart deems to be of a competitive nature will not be allowed to attend.

Developing a Culture of Continuous Improvement
This one-day introductory programme is designed to introduce participants to the things that need to be done to affect the climate of an organisation and entire supply chain to develop better relationships and a culture that supports a lean supply chain.

Coming soon: register to receive details. Email: [email protected]

Lean Supply Chain
This course serves as a detailed introduction to the value of using the principles of lean in the supply chain. It develops understanding of what businesses should commit to in order to implement lean processes in a substantive and valuable way.

Coming soon: register to receive details. Email: [email protected]

Operational Excellence in Manufacturing based Supply Chains
This one-day introductory workshop is intended to help delegates increase the overall effectiveness and efficiency of their manufacturing supply chain.

Coming soon: register to receive details. Email: [email protected]

Due to the nature of this workshop, delegates from organisations that Unipart deems to be of a competitive nature will not be allowed to attend.

Value Stream Mapping
Available as a one-day overview or two-day intensive practitioner programme, this workshop introduces participants to the practical aspects of mapping pathways, processes and entire supply chains.

Coming soon: register to receive details. Email: [email protected]