Friday, November 20, 2009

"Lean Manufacturing" in software ...

The term Lean Manufacturing has been around for a while, but it seems that it has been re-discovered by a few marketing teams in a few of the larger ERP systems (I hate this term ERP, but I'll use it for reference) solution providers, and I'm getting spammed about how to "make my business 'leaner'".
I have no intention to drill deep into Fordism at this point, as it is a really exhaustive topic (and well worth researching if you're unfamiliar with it) and not really suitable for an ad hoc blog post. What I will say (and to really water it down and simplify it) is that in terms of software solutions for logistics/production companies, is that the goal of any information system you implement should aim to reduce the amount of manaual work employees perform or remove the need for any manual work altogether.

The great majority of systems (ERP, SCM, MM, IS, --> insert acroynm here) capture information well (including the system the company I work for implements), but they do a poor job of automating processes or removing the "decision time" process. In other words, you collect a plethora of information about, say, what items are in your warehouse, but very few of these systems are ordering supplies for themselves (ie... when a store's shelf is empty or the supply depot is almost exhausted, very few outfits have automated re-ordering of goods in demand, and still depend upon shop assistants and students to do "inventory" or "by-site" management of goods ordering).

There are a few systems out there (not being fully used by most of their customers), that automat the sourcing process, including the contracting process, ordering process (by Demand), etc ... but for the most part, especially in this part of Europe, product chain management is extremly poor. The local giant Tesco or Hypernova or Albert should NEVER run out of something (unless it's seasonal), but they do all the time. For example, items I buy all of the time seem to run out, and isn't replaced for days, sometimes even weeks -- even when their other stores on the other side of town have a shelf full of the same goods. "Real Time" analysis and movement of items by demand shouldn't be some rare function of an information system and a comapany's procurement organization, it should be the norm.

The point is, if you are a manager of a large company needing an information system to help you capture AND improve your current production/procurement processes, just don't follow the other sheep and invest in "popular" tools (especially those subsidized by a government, cough, cough ...) ... try doing a bit more research first, and if you're completely lost, contact a professional outside of those companies to help you garner your proper requirements (it doesn't have to be me! :P) ... you'll be glad you did.


Anonymous said...

Great blog you got here. It would be great to read something more about that matter. The only thing it would also be great to see on this blog is a few pictures of any gadgets.
John Karver
Block phone

David Stennett said...

John, thanks for the comment. I'm slowly rebooting the blog with more topics specific to supply chain, etc ... so stay tuned ;-)