Lean Manufacturing

We are always pleased when we get the chance to feature well-written articles on lean manufacturing. MultiCams products synergise extremely well with the strategy of adopting lean practices due to the custom and flexible nature of their design. With this in mind we are delighted to announce that we are going to be featuring a series of articles detailing the 8-basics of kaizen based lean manufacturing.

We will be releasing a new post every Thursday and Tuesday and these will feature the next installment in the series until we have covered all 8 principles. To stay up to date please feel free to follow our companies LinkedIn or FaceBook pages as we always announce when we are featuring new articles from industry experts. The author of this informative series is Bill Gaw and featured below is Part 4 (Point-of-use Logistics) of his series on Kaizen Based Lean Manufacturing.

Companies will never achieve their full growth and profit potential, let alone gain the benefits of their supply chain management system, as long as business leaders continue to talk about value-added supplier partnerships while continuing to treat their suppliers as adversaries.

Material handling and inventory storage are two of manufacturing’s high cost, non-value-added activities. The elimination of the stock room, as it is known today, should be a strategic objective of all manufacturers. Moving materials to their point-of-use is not a new concept, the auto industry has done it from its beginning and all industries have had success with point-of-use, low cost hardware. Supply chain development is the key, and it’s time to realize that there is much more to increasing supplier contribution to gross profits than simply placing purchase orders with the lowest price bidder. “Strategic Outsourcing” that focuses on getting the right materials, in the right quantity, to the right place, at the right time and at the lowest “total cost” must replace “beating-up” on suppliers for price reduction alone.

A manufacturer of electronic component test equipment, in response to its need to increase factory floor space to build a new multi-function tester, decided to convert stockroom space into a production area. It was agreed that none of the new tester parts would enter the remaining stockroom and that all common parts would be relocated to their using production areas as “point-of-use” inventory. The key to making this project a success was the development of a powerful supplier support network that provided timely and innovative “point-of-use” logistical support. High communications integrity, scheduling flexibility/responsiveness, superior quality, special materials transportation/storage racks and a positive “continuous improvement” mindset were some of the characteristics of the developed relationship. Three years after the start of the project, this manufacturer was a market leader and most of the credit goes to their supplier development team and the powerful supplier support network that it helped develop.

In today’s competitive business environment, many manufacturing companies are turning to value-added supplier partnerships to achieve the material availability performance that is a requisite to successful point-of-use inventory. When a company forms a partnership that performs one of the links in the supply chain, both stand to benefit from the other’s success. The power of supplier partnerships is undeniable. To a great extent, they have the best of both worlds: the coordination and scale associated with large companies and the flexibility, creativity and low overhead usually found in small companies. Suppliers have knowledge and insight but aren’t burdened with guidelines from a distant headquarters. They don’t have long forms to fill out and weekly reports to render and can act promptly, without having to consult a thick manual of standard operation procedures. In an increasing number of industries, value-added suppliers are proving to be fiercely competitive – delivering high quality, competitively priced materials to precise buyer schedule requirements.

An excellent way of establishing the partnership relationship is to treat each other as an extension of one’s business. The value-added supplier should look to his partner for services such as special procurement help on capital equipment and training needs and maybe some process engineering or quality engineering assistance. The buying partner, on the other hand, should look to the supplier partner for product development input, cost containment ideas and high quality parts/components/ assemblies delivered the right time, in the right quantity, and at the lowest possible “total cost.”.

Most business leaders underestimate the depth and breadth of business skills that are required to initiate and nurture a supply chain management program. Usually, these leaders hold suppliers at arm’s length and struggle to keep any economic gains to themselves. In fact, organizations often try to weaken a supplier to ensure their own control of profits. This of course is ridiculous and is the first obstacle to be overcome if point-of-use inventory is to be successfully implemented – for without a strong supplier network there can be no point-of- use inventory.

Business people in pursuit of point-of-use inventory should be advocates of: 1) business integrity, 2) day-to-day supplier cooperation, 3) free exchange of information, 4) responsive decision-making and 5) supplier profit sharing. Supplier development and strategic outsourcing requires a “from the top down” commitment and investment to produce a “been there-done that” team of professionals that can make it happen.

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