As we roll further on into the New Year, many companies are going to be looking at what they can do to improve their supply chain efficiency. There is a drastic difference in efficiency between the highest-performing companies and the ones that are only performing at an average level, which means the latter group should be looking to close the gap.
If you want to improve the efficiency of your supply chain, one of the best ways to do so is by utilizing some of the principles of the kaizen philosophy around process improvement. While kaizen might be most often associated with the Japanese automobile giant Toyota, it is a set of principles and ideals that a business of almost any size can benefit from.
Here are some of the best bits of kaizen strategy that you can incorporate into your supply chain policies to make your supply chain leaner and more effective:
Give Your Employees More Power
You trust your employees and your supply chain managers to be able to effectively handle their responsibilities and identify any problems with the place that they work. One of the most important concepts of lean manufacturing based on the Toyota principles is “jidoka,” or the cessation of work immediately when a problem first comes to light.
This is a very critical element of the kaizen approach because it prevents new problems from arising as a result of an initial mistake or error in the workflow. However, in order for jidoka to work effectively, employees and supervisors must have the oversight necessary to be able to stop the workflow. If your most trusted employees don’t have the ability to give their input on work processes and make suggestions for better supply chain efficiency, you need to re-examine the way that your policies are set up.
Analyze Your Supply Chain Yourself
While employees should certainly have the ability to provide their own input, one of the biggest principles of using kaizen to attain supply chain efficiency, is to “go see for yourself” so that you can appraise situations that need resolution. Trying to come up with a solution for a problem that you don’t fully understand is a recipe for disaster. Being on the warehouse floor or loading dock will give you first hand experience and insight into the issue far better than a second hand report.
Hold Kaizen Events for Your Team
Kaizen events are excellent for helping your team members understand how kaizen can be applied to improve your supply chain efficiency. You don’t need to have a very long or drawn out event. You may start by gathering together the pertinent team members and discussing what kaizen is and how it can be applied into your supply chain. From there, you can plan some more traditional kaizen events, which are immersive, multi-day events that allow team members to dig deep into their current policies and come up with a plan to change them.
The word “kaizen” in Japanese literally means change for good. 2015 is the perfect time to adopt the principles of kaizen to help you improve your supply chain efficiency for the better. Take a tip from a tried and trusted approach and set your business up for success this year.
About Michael Wilson
Michael Wilson is AFFLINK'S Vice President of Marketing and Communications. He has been with the organization since 2005 and provides strategic leadership for the entire supply chain team. In his free time, Michael enjoys working with the Wounded Warrior Project, fishing, and improving his cooking skills.