SHARPER FOCUS FOR THE GLOBAL CHAIN
||World Wide Shipping
SHARPER FOCUS FOR THE GLOBAL CHAIN
Lean is about flow and the elimination of waste. Waste can be defined as
anything that does not add value to the product - anything that the customer
would not want to pay for. Waste in logistics can be defined as unnecessary
activities that result in excess inventories, increased leadtime and increased
To date, much of the focus of lean logistics has been on manufacturing in
domestic markets. However, the logistics industry is changing rapidly. We now
face global supply chains with the inherent challenge of a complex network of
suppliers and logistics service providers. From China to India and throughout
the world, lead times have been significantly extended. But these changes to
global supply bases may not have received the attention they deserve from lean
Global supply chain management contains three key segments:
Demand planning and management;
Supplier performance and management;
Logistics service providers (both internal and external) performance and
The current condition of a supply chain can be described visually using "value
stream mapping". The value stream comprises all the steps necessary to bring a
product from its raw materials through production to delivery to the customer.
With value stream mapping, all the steps in the supply chain process are
identified and assessed as to whether they add value or create waste.
Typically, there are two streams or flows to be described and analysed. These
are the flow of product and the flow of information.
This technique works well with the "pull" or Kanban basic approach of supply
chain management. Inventory is pulled, not pushed, through the supply chain
from customer back through to suppliers. With the pull, excess inventory should
be removed from the supply chain.
Mapping is a tool to visualise what goes on. The picture is a way to see the
non-value, waste-creating actions for both the product and the information
flows. The two flows should be integrated. Otherwise opportunities for
non-value added activities and for inconsistent actions are created.
Value stream mapping looks at a key product(s) that have high volume and/or high
profit margins. The logistics process for each product is mapped, analysed,
waste is identified and a new process for the future is defined and
The mapping involves gathering customer or store information, depending on
whether you are a wholesaler/distributor, manufacturer or retailer. Draw the
process - from what triggers the purchase order, back through the suppliers and
logistics providers, to delivery.
There can be 15 or more parties involved with the movement of product and
information, and both the product and financial chains, so the supply chain can
be complex to visualize. And the size means collaboration and co-operation are
needed between and among all the parties involved for proper mapping and for
identifying waste. A supplier in Shanghai whose key component comes from
Thailand must participate actively in the mapping since all this is part of the
process. This is not an option.
Or look at a customs broker who does not directly touch the product or the
shipping container. He acts with the information and documentation to
facilitate the movement of the product. But the linkage among the importer,
customs broker, ocean carrier/air forwarder and delivering rail or trucker can
create waste, by adding times and by stopping product flow.
Value stream mapping is a picture of the process or what is used as a process.
The lack of a real process can create waste, or non-value-added activity.
Global supply chain waste occurs as unneeded cycle time, inventory and cost.
The cost waste often appears in the transportation and warehousing activities.
A company with no viable global supply chain process often has gaps in the
"process" activities. In turn, redundancies occur at various points to
compensate for gaps. These redundancies, with their extra and unnecessary work,
are islands of waste in the flow. An example of a waste that can arise because
of flaws and gaps in a process is expediting.
What also makes lean international supply chain management more complex and
unique is that so much activity occurs outside the company. With lean
manufacturing and domestic lean logistics, much of the activity occurs within
Company people involved in global supply chain activities often push much of the
waste they cause onto the outside parties. They do not understand the
complexity and operations of the international aspect, or they have forced the
outside activities to adjust to their lack of process and their waste
practices. Demanding others to adapt to your waste activities is not
collaboration, which is a two-way effort to reduce waste.
Analyse the map below. It helps to have someone independent here. Someone
who is too close to the activity may not be able, in identifying internal waste
to "see the wood for the trees". Organisations have dominant departments and
dysfunctions that can impede real process - and supply chain management is a
process, a cross-functional one.
It is easy to place responsibilities on external parties without understanding
what your company does to trigger their actions. See where the process is being
forced to fit your company or some other entity and, as a result, creates
significant waste. Designing the new process requires clear analysis and
thinking beyond traditional logistics. Otherwise, one flawed process can
replace another flawed process.
The import supply chain must be seen as one event, not as two separate events of
sourcing and of logistics. The dichotomy can show on both the product map and
the information map. This affects the handoff from supplier to logistics
service providers. Assessing modes, carriers/forwarders, service and
ports/airports can reduce time for key products.
More than 25% of purchase orders are not shipped as planned or are not delivered
as planned. This significant statistic presents a real opportunity to reduce
waste. Supplier performance and supplier lead times are important areas for
potential waste reduction and process improvement.
Also, the distribution network may be outdated. It may have been built years
before with different store or customer configurations, different products, and
other topics. It may have been built when the focus was on storing inventory in
warehouses, unlike now when inventory velocity is emphasised. Touching the
product to store it often adds only time - a waste result, not value (see map
at bottom of facing page).
Bypassing warehouses with crossdock or other transfer facilities at ports can
remove time and inventory. Supply chain execution technology can give
visibility from the purchase order through to delivery order. It can provide
the way to allocate product in transit. Making this part of the new process
reduces two key wastes - time and inventory.
Global supply chain management has significant "built-in" time because of the
distance involved. This runs counter to domestic supply chains. The extended
time can, in turn, create uncertainty and the need for many companies to build
and carry additional inventories. Yet time and inventory are two areas of waste
for lean to improve. So lean international logistics faces an additional
challenge because of its inherent scope and the impact throughout the supply
chain, especially within the company.
Identifying non-value added activities is especially important for worldwide
supply chain management. Any activity that adds time and inventory and cost to
the already complex activities can obstruct supply chain effectiveness. Value
stream mapping is a tool for seeing and identifying waste, both internal and
external. Seeing the current activities and the waste can form the basis of
plans to improve the supply chain. This procedure is especially critical for
high-volume and high-margin products where the impact on the company bottom
line is significant.
Collaboration and co-operation within the company organisation and between and
among trading partners is important for truly removing waste across the entire
supply chain. Accelerating cycle time, increasing inventory velocity and
reducing costs for the high-volume and high-margin products can affect return
on investment and drive the benefit of lean for everyone to see.
Lean logistics for international business offers significant potential to
identify and reduce time, inventory and cost (see map above). And given the
size of the international supply chain, both for importing and exporting, the
approach merits the effort for bottom-line results. Value stream mapping
provides an important tool for understanding the present supply chain and
designing a new one.
Top of Page |
LTD HOME PAGE