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Add sales to your value stream

Purchasing departments are looking for more dollar value, reduced lead-times and stress-free relationships with their suppliers.


November 4, 2011
Kathy Smith

Purchasing departments are looking for more dollar value, reduced lead-times and stress-free relationships with their suppliers. How do we accommodate them?

Begin by educating your sales team on the various attributes of your lean toolbox. Then add the tools as part of your selling strategy.

Customer kanban is a great solution for both the customer and you. Offer to place some products on kanban, which you will monitor from a remote location. One way to do it is to install a webcam over the customer’s inventory and monitor it constantly. You’ll get a jump on production before the purchase order arrives, and if the customer adds shifts, you can react quickly to the change in demand. If unusual demand appears from another customer, increase inventory to support customer “A” while freeing resources and capacity to satisfy the unusual demand from “B.”

When you supply a significant piece of capital equipment, provide your customer with a simple TPM checklist supported with visual work instructions. Nobody wants unexpected equipment malfunctions. Your customer will detect potential problems early and take pre-emptive action without putting in a panic order for replacement parts.

Back in the office you need to break the cadence, which in administrative operations is well hidden since we pass information from computer to computer, or system to system. Typically office personnel work to complete tasks on a daily basis. If you establish virtual gates during the day, chances are the information flow will increase proportionally; so instead of an eight-hour cadence (typical), work to four hours or two hours and watch your velocity increase on a regular basis.

Logistics is the muscle that binds all of the stakeholders together but does not often get the marquee status it deserves. Recently Wal-Mart announced it was taking control of logistics to retrieve products from its suppliers.

Lean is all about opening capacity but more importantly it’s about increasing product flow velocity. Once you have designed and established the cadence of your material flow, only then does the application of lean tools truly begin to make sense.

Look at material conveyance methodologies both inside and externally to see if they resemble a “cab service” or a “bus route.” If it resembles more of a cab service you have a significant opportunity to achieve efficiencies and migrate to a bus route.

Richard Kunst is president and CEO of Kunst Solutions Corp., which publishes the “Lean Thoughts” e-newsletter. E-mail rkunst@kunstartofsolutions.com.