Written by Ron Leitch

Written by Ron Leitch

In the supply chain industry there is a lot of talk about lean initiatives from a business perspective but it often doesn’t focus on the real value it can add to customers. There must be a flow of lean initiatives implemented across technologies, assets, and departments, transforming the entire business not just elements of it.

Sometimes businesses think that they can only control things within their own four walls but it is possible to map value streams wider, and so initiatives can be extended to external parts of business. Value Stream Mapping is essential as it enables you to identify non-value-adding steps such as tidying up, which can be improved aligned with a value-added task, e.g. when waiting for machine to reload, tidy as you go.

This is particularly important if you are working with products that consumers rely on for their daily lives, such as their smartphone, and as a result, having a process that works quickly, efficiently and with visibility can make the crucial differentiator between you and your competitors. The quicker you can get devices back in the hands of consumers the better.

Lean is not another cost reduction programme but a way of thinking and acting for an entire organisation, it has to be seen by every member of staff as relevant. This is gradual and requires discipline. One successful way to implement its benefits is to introduce an internal awards programme with a prestigious trip abroad as a prize at the end of each year for the team that has reduced a process time the most.

The following are three recommendations for constant forward thinking and motivation:

  1. Approach processes as if you were the customer.
  2. Recognise if the customer would value the outcome and pay for it.
  3. Develop how you can deliver value with minimal resources.

As we know, the core lean principles centre on eliminating the seven wastes; transportation (excessive handling), unnecessary inventory, motion (employee ergonomics), waiting (non-moving goods), inappropriate processing (plant equipment use), overproduction and defects (quality control). Unnecessary inventory is a direct result of ill management of processing and motion, most are interconnected. Within these seven areas there can constantly be a better way of carrying out various different tasks that keep us all competitive and mean we can deliver a better service to customers and their consumers.

Here, Kaizen sprints are also an important part of the process as they tend to involve all employees from the CEO to the shop floor assistant to make business improvement suggestions. Agility couldn’t be more important. Being able to adapt to new business processes and understand the ongoing need for change is paramount to success and optimal service delivery.

Automation is also key. Transforming manual laden jobs with automated processes leads to multiple efficiencies. For example, a fully functional automated testing capability for smartphones can reduce the testing and diagnosis time by up to five minutes per device, a significant saving to be able to pass on to customers, and that’s just one process. Transportation costs can also likely be reduced by delivering to a central pick up location instead of the residence of each consumer for instance.

A customer is four times more likely to defect to a competitor for a service related problem verses a price or product-related issue, according to brand analyst Bain & Co. It’s time businesses embraced the opportunities at hand, to streamline logistics, save time to meet tight turnaround times and deliver ultimate customer satisfaction.

At Teleplan, we have helped customers to dramatically reduce turnaround times, rectify parts disputes, and optimise transport delivery times. All of which result in increased productivity and get devices back into the hand of the end user’s hands faster. Implementing lean initiatives benefits everyone and encourages constant innovation. Here’s to always adding value and raising the bar.