Saturday 24th Feb 2018 - Logistics Manager

Go with the flow

Adaptability and continual evolution is the key to a successful supply chain. It is vital to remain receptive to new ways of thinking – most analysts argue that the best approach to the supply chain is ongoing reflection and a refusal to rest on one’s laurels.

To that end, supply chain consultancy group TPL Logistics Management are continuing to develop their multi-stage Strategic Thinking Programme intended to allow companies to explore new supply chain opportunities to grow sales and reduce cost.

The programme draws on the cutting edge theories of Professor Dan Jones and is led by him. Jones is a pivotal figure in the field of lean business and pioneered many of the concepts now taken for granted by forward-thinking companies. He is the co-author of Lean Thinking and founder chairman of The Lean Enterprise Academy.

‘Both TPL and Dan Jones were keen to put together a programme that first deals with lean consumption and introduces the principles but then allows people to explore what is truly meant by the concept and its implications for supply chains,’ says TPL’s commercial development manager Jonathan Kittow.

‘Our next workshop, on May 5th, is intended to provide a framework of tools and techniques which will allow people to go away and assess their own business and score it against a relatively simple sieve.’

Many companies are guilty of an overly simplistic interpretation of lean principles – this is a problem that these workshops are intended to address. Removal of waste has become a fundamental maxim in many companies, keen to take on board the lessons of lean. But TPL and Dan Jones argue that this overarching emphasis on eliminating waste has meant that, in many companies, some equally important ‘lean factors’ have been ignored. Such companies are missing out by this inability, or unwillingness, to look at the bigger opportunity.

Arguably the most important of the principles that need to be applied in a truly lean business is responsiveness to consumer demand. In part, companies have traditionally given low priority to this because it is – on the face of it – so difficult to achieve without continually implementing damaging short-term plan changes.

The May 5th workshop examines an alternative approach – one that is intended to end the chronic tinkering and short-termism affecting so many supply chains and provide the foundation for a truly lean approach.

The ‘sieve’ that Jonathan Kittow referred to was developed to help companies achieve this – to move beyond mere waste reduction to a fully lean operation. It takes clients through the five levelling steps developed originally by Toyota. But it seeks to do more: as well as identifying and eliminating waste, it adopts a holistic approach involving all the elements found in a genuinely lean organisation. The idea is to fully involve the widest number of people in any organisation and to lay the groundwork for the kind of continuous evolution and improvement that is so important for a modern supply chain.

Kittow sums up the issue: ‘Dan Jones’ version of lean isn’t just about waste reduction, it’s more about flow.’ And TPL’s second workshop, on May 26th, concentrates on improving flow throughout the supply chain – and how to profit from that improvement.

‘Our second workshop, on May 26th, will encourage delegates to further develop their results from using the high-level sieve,’ says Kittow. ‘They can then start to build on those results: to look at how they should provoke changes in their organisation. They will be able to discuss practical aspects of improving flow, and how changes now occurring in retail will influence the upstream supply chains. When these ideas are applied effectively the suppliers should find cost reductions and more potential to achieve higher service levels.’

This second workshop is titled ‘Profiting exponentially from improved flow throughout the supply chain.’ It will also consider sourcing issues, finally looking at control and flow via IT and logistics planning and control.

These principles can and should be embraced by companies in a wide range of industrial sectors – from grocery retailers to pharmaceutical manufacturers. But closed minds need not apply: these workshops are about challenging conventional wisdom and casting aside traditional assumptions.

The workshops are offered to Gold members of TPL’s Manufacturer’s Distribution Initiative – TPL MANDI – although non-members still have time to join by phoning TPL LOGISTICS MANAGEMENT Rhiannon Spurgeon:+44(0)1252 737939