Lean Manufacturing and the Industrial Supply Link

Lean manufacturing can most easily defined as the elimination of waste and the most efficient use of resources. The waste can include labor, materials and money while the resources include everything from raw materials to industrial supplies. Where exactly does the industrial supply company fit into the picture?

First, let’s define what those supplies are. In the eyes of an industrial supply company, they are everything that is not defined as equipment. Some examples of supplies would be rolls of tape as opposed to a tape dispenser and a forklift accessory as opposed to the forklift itself. By this definition, they include an enormous number of frequently replaced items as well as other goods that need occasional replacement or upgrading.

Since lean manufacturing is all about the elimination of waste and the efficient use of resources, the proper use of industrial supplies must play an important part in the process. Lean manufacturing requires a delicate balance between having a wasteful excess or insufficient supply. More than anything else, the supply chain makes the difference between success and failure in lean manufacturing. An industrial supply company is an indispensable link in that chain.

The supply chain includes hundreds of materials. Obviously, the shorter the chain, the less chance there is of breakage. For example, a large manufacturer will require office and packaging supplies regularly in order to keep up with demand. If it is a lean manufacturing operation, it will keep only enough of these supplies in stock to keep up with demand. More would be a waste of money and space. If, instead of ordering office supplies from one source and packaging materials from another, it can order these and other manufacturing supplies from just one industrial supply company, it has eliminated unnecessary and potentially costly links in its supply chain.

However, the industrial supply company must be run at least as efficiently as the company it is supplying, because it has greater responsibility. It has to understand the meaning of “just in time” production, where there is no room for error or delays.

When so much is at stake, who can a manufacturer count on to guarantee that it gets its vital supplies “just in time”? They are not going to trust a company that has only recently opened an online industrial supply website. They are going to look for a company with a long and distinguished history in the materials handling business. Only then will they know that their supply chain will never be broken.

You may not be running a multi-national corporation, but we can all learn from successful manufacturers who have adopted lean manufacturing methods and continue to profit even during the current economic slump. Can you afford to keep excess stocks of supplies on hand just in case business picks up? Wouldn’t it be better to find an industrial supply company that can provide you with what you need, when you need it? Do so and you’ll find that you can weather any economic storm.

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