Lean and strategic sourcing in the manufacturing sector are of undoubtedly of great interest to MetalMiner readers (or at least should be), since streamlining supply chain elements is such a key component of the health and profitability of any metals business. For that reason, I thought I’d direct readers toward a few recent pieces in Industry Week that focus on the ongoing debate of what exactly “lean means and how to best implement it within a company’s existing routine.
In an October commentary in Industry Week, Rick Bohan, a principal at Ohio-based Chagrin River Consulting LLC, plays down the importance of cost cutting for small manufacturers, instead arguing that for them, creating “agility is paramount. To be able to turn around and make use of short lead times on orders while keeping inventory low and making customers happy, Bohan argues, matters most for eventually favorable bottom line results. He writes that “the ability to meet the sometimes capricious and unreasonable demands of customers each time, all the time wins out.
On Dec. 16, the publication posted a response to Bohan’s piece from Terry Durbin, continuous improvement manager for Winegard Company, a television-reception product manufacturer in Burlington, Iowa. As a 15-year veteran of lean strategies, Durbin begs to differ with Bohan’s assessment that the traditional “lean message” is one of “hoping for Ëœpromised’ cuts in payroll, improvements in efficiency and reduced costs elsewhere.”
“Lean’s message has always been one of responsiveness to customer needs, identification and elimination of non-value-added activities, and a passionate devotion to employee participation, he points out. (Indeed, a crucial starting place for lean implementation is a company’s culture, as referenced by a third Industry Week article.)
A MetalMiner paper that Lisa Reisman co-authored with Stuart Burns seems to support Durbin’s view, in that lean is more of a journey rather than a tool “primarily for cost cutting. That would be more along the lines of strategic sourcing: “a one-time effort, a quick hit without any major internal process changes that was less than fully data driven. If lean was the Eastern medicine that focused on treating the corporate patient holistically over timeâ€requiring active involvement on the patient’s behalf in improving his conditionâ€strategic sourcing was the prescription drug that immediately got its adherents hooked on quick-fix savings,Reisman and Burns wrote.
Rather than stumbling upon the best by-products to lean manufacturing, it seemingly behooves both large and small manufacturers to do their best to engineer them. But is it that easy? Let us know what you think post a comment!