Lean Logistics: Process Creation Is Half The Battle

Supply chain diagram black arrow - flow of mat... Image via WikipediaLean Logistics: Process Creation Is Half The Battle

Lean Logistics: Process Creation Is Half The Battle

I recently spent a considerable amount of time value stream mapping and brainstorming around issues with supplier shipping at a large manufacturing firm. Sometimes the supplier would ship late, and the plant wouldn’t know until too late. Many times the supplier would ship early, causing system grief and excess inventory.

After exhaustive thinking we decided to implement a manifest that would follow the shipment from the supplier to the final plant receiving dock. This manifest would include multiple toll gates and quality checks along the way. With the new process, suppliers would access a web portal to see what they were supposed to ship. They would then input the available quantities into the system, and it would print out a document that listed each part and quantity shipping. The driver would arrive to pick up material and would be responsible for checking that everything on the manifest list matched what was being loaded on the truck. This check would increase accuracy of the receiving process. The driver would also be responsible for ensuring that anything not listed on the manifest was not allowed to be put on the truck, preventing early shipping.

After we came to this conclusion, we ended the workshop by congratulating the workshop team, updating process flows, creating standard work, and cleaning up the workshop room, leaving ready to take on the next task.

In hindsight, we had failed to avoid one of the biggest pitfalls of process improvement. Creating the process is only a small portion of fixing the problem. We had stopped at the Plan and failed to follow up with the Do, Check, and Act.

Tips To Ensure Process Improvement Success

  • Nemawashi – work with key contacts who will be affected by the change to lay the foundation of what is changing and why
  • Process Flow – clearly have the process outlined and easy to understand, and ensure it is visible to everyone involved
  • Standard Work – Work with those who will be involved to update standard work to reflect the new changes
  • Metrics – develop metrics to check compliance to the new process
  • Corrective Actions – follow up on any process failures to understand them at their root and put corrective actions in place to prevent future errors
  • Attitude – stay positive when working with all those involved in the change, as change is never easy
  • Communication – maintain open lines of communication so that any issues, hurdles, and improvements can be shared quickly and easily
  • Congratulating The Team – take the time to thank everyone on the work they are putting into the process improvement, and ensure everyone knows their help and their ideas are valuable

While we spent several days coming up with the process, it took several additional weeks before we saw the final results. Implementing the change is the hardest step, and it takes patience, discipline, and change management skills to be successful. With the right attitude and approach, no problem is impossible to solve.

Written By Jacob Nance, Lean Logistics Manager at LeanCor Supply Chain Group

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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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