The Power of Collaboration within the Lean Supply Chain

By: David Sherman - Manager, Lean Supply Chain Operations

The lean supply chain consists of many moving parts, multiple processes, and countless people. To ensure that each part of the supply chain is functioning properly, each party must utilize high levels of collaboration across all aspects of the organizations. Collaboration is the act of two or more parties working together to accomplish a shared goal(s). Lean supply chain partners must be able to successfully collaborate in order to realize and accomplish their shared goals together that will facilitate in the success of their ventures. Successful collaboration with suppliers, customers, and other supply chain partners will only continue to help drive sustainability within the supply chain web.

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How Collaboration Can Be Affective

Supply chain collaboration can be effective for all parties involved if approached properly. Understanding each customer’s actual demand is key to successful collaboration in the lean supply chain. When a firm is able to understand actual demand at the consumption point (customer) then the cadence of shipments can match that consumption i.e. two shipments daily, or once an hour etc. As this cadence is determined by actual demand, firms are then able to work with other supplier to better align their processes to match the cadence of the customer’s demand. As firm’s processes are aligned with their customers’ processes and cadence(s), idiosyncrasies can be eliminated through the use of collaborative strategic problem solving. This lean problem solving can be done at the root cause level to eliminate issues revealed which are revealed as a result of lean supply chain collaboration (i.e. lower inventory levels, more visibility to issues (frequency of interactions) etc.). As a progressive approach is taken to lean supply chain collaboration, more voices can be not only be heard but also understood to determine areas of improvement for all parties involved.

What Companies are Primed for Collaboration?

As firms start to search for companies to collaborate with, it is best to determine which partners strategically align with the goals and mission of the firm itself. Understanding the purpose and strategic alignment of each party involved is critical to the overall success of a lean supply chain collaboration effort. Partners in collaborative efforts should reflect similar goals and missions in their strategic plans to have the likeliest chance for success. These collaborative firms should also be open to approaching problems in a lean manner, to root cause the issue, and resolve problems at the core source(s) and processes(s). Not only will these collaboration efforts strengthen strategic supply chain relationships and profitability but the efforts will also allow firms to manage supply chain processes on an exception basis. As firms begin to understand their collaborative partners’ goals and missions, each party will then be better suited to contribute to the collaborative efforts that will help drive real supply chain action and success. Collaborative partners will be strategic relationships that will want to be involved in growth together for years to come, not just for a short time frame. Does your firm have any collaborative relationships with suppliers and/or customers?

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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