Supply Chain World Volume 8, Issue 6

Page 22


A lean approach Larry D. Coté looks at the importance of lean and why it’s significant when dealing with the coronavirus pandemic


ean is a way of thinking (thanks to Jim Womack and Dan Jones) that establishes the basis of the overall vision and direction of all organizations, big and small – countries included. The thrust of the thinking is to provide ‘value’ to the customer/client. That means delivering your product or service, at the right time, for a reasonable price and with the highest quality, while building a system that can flex with changing demands from your customer(s). The pandemic is one of the more extreme - and unprecedented - examples of the vital importance of being able to react to changes in demand, and to supply your clients with the product/service they require or need. The virus crisis is far from over, but I think we can assume that some countries have handled the challenge better than others. Once Covid-19 is beaten, it will be interesting to re-examine the countries who handled it well, and those that stumbled. It will be one of those most important ‘lessons learned’ experiences. But we can take a snapshot or do a preliminary analysis, now, based on the


knowledge and results to date. For this, I suggest we limit our thoughts to the current situation in the industrialized countries that we read about daily. Well aware, of course, that we are limited for the most part, to media reports for most of our information. On the surface, it appears some countries understood the critical importance of having a supply chain that can could provide vaccines at the speed, cost and quality needed by their citizens, while other countries did not. One of the elements of Lean is to have your suppliers close to the customer, in order to deliver on time and meet ever-changing demands. Many countries decided early on that the best way to accomplish this was to have production facilities of the products needed close to their customers within their own countries. Others decided to ignore their own capabilities and rather rely on remote foreign sources in the supply chain. The countries with suppliers close to their customers seem to have found it much easier to react to demand in a timely fashion, as well as to control quality and keep a steady flow of products. This closer proximity allows

for more effective transportation planning and distribution, along the entire end-to-end process. Lean is all about process flow; with transportation and delivery being challenges, plus the complexity and reliance on foreign entities, adds to the challenge of control over deliveries and can plague the supply chain with disruptions. The final customer then “sees” other entities being serviced faster, and lose confidence in their own countries’ abilities at all levels. The countries who chose to look outside their borders for supply have found themselves scrambling for product. The result has been generally reactive, rather than proactive. They have spent much of their time trying to find ways to overcome their inconsistent or lack of stable supply. The delay in establishing a strong relationship with local suppliers means they were likely unable to influence suppliers at the level required. This scenario can result in paying more for the product and increased wasteful activity, in order to get moved up on the supply priority list. Plus, with no guarantees of reliable supply and likely weak relationships, they may attempt to set up multiple contracts,