Everyday Lean: Taking an Issue in Supplier Compliance to the Gemba

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Everyday Lean: Taking an Issue in Supplier Compliance to the Gemba

On a recent afternoon at a client’s inbound warehouse, the dock was jammed full of trailers that had waited to unload over the weekend. The two lean logistics managers, so-called “lean experts” who preached leveled flow and on-time-delivery, were left scratching their heads at the poor carrier performance and literally twice the volume on this day compared to the last three.

This situation is not uncommon. At first pass the unleveled unload schedules could easily be blamed on the logistics engineer, and the carrier performance could be addressed with a stern e-mail to our carrier’s account coordinator threatening the loss of business. But what separates these “lean experts” from others is that they didn’t blame others and go back to their offices complaining that people “just don’t get it.” Instead, they carried their problem-solving documents to the Gemba. Within a matter of minutes, two separate and distinct problems were identified: carrier performance to planned window times and unleveled inbound dock schedules.

Through use of the 5 Why’s and asking the people directly involved with the process it was uncovered that the unleveled inbound schedule was not a result of poor planning. It was a result of the way the ordering systems and supplier compliance rules had been established. While the ordering system and supplier compliance rules were optimized for the purchasing and planning departments, they were not optimal for the logistics department. Since the project was larger in scope, it was placed on a running list of scheduled continuous improvement projects and prioritized accordingly.

The carrier performance issue, however, was quickly resolved. A quick chat with the actual drivers uncovered that the “in and out” window times transmitted from dispatch appeared on the driver’s paperwork to be an open window time for arrival, not a start and exit time. So a driver, carrying a load that would take two hours to unload and given a 2 hour time slot of 13:00 – 15:00 would often arrive at 14:45 in complete confidence that they had made their window. Nobody had communicated that 13:00 was the planned start time and 15:00 was the planned exit time.

Going to the Gemba made the problem simpler to tackle. The lean logistics managers held a quick meeting with the account coordinator to go over the carrier processes, systems, and paperwork. The unnecessary threatening e-mail was never sent.

Written by Derek Browning, Lean Deployment Executive at LeanCor

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Posted by LeanCor Supply Chain Group

LeanCor Supply Chain Group is a trusted supply chain partner that specializes in lean principles to deliver operational improvement. LeanCor’s three integrated divisions – LeanCor Training and Education, LeanCor Consulting, and LeanCor Logistics – help organizations eliminate waste, drive down costs, and build a culture of continuous improvement.

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