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.
Industrial supplies as defined above are as vital to lean manufacturing as raw materials, manufacturing equipment and personnel are. A manufacturer that operates under the principles of lean manufacturing relies on an industrial supply company to give it the supplies it needs when it needs them, because it does not keep excess stock or manufactured goods on hand.
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.
The only problem is that by forging a link with one industrial supply company, it has to rely on it to be a very strong link. “Just in time” means exactly that. If supplies don’t come just in time, the entire production process suffers.
Who does a lean manufacturer turn to when so much hinges on getting the supplies it needs when it needs them? It turns to an industrial supply company with a track record of reliability. It’s one thing to be able to place orders for equipment and supplies online, but it’s quite another to place them with the confidence that comes from knowing you are dealing with a company that knows the meaning of service.
As a small business owner or manager of a warehouse or manufacturing plant, you may wonder what lean manufacturing has to do with your business. In turbulent economic times like this, it has everything to do with your business. You have to trim the fat and cannot afford to keep excess stock in anticipation of an upturn. You have to be flexible and adaptable. Find an industrial supply company that has gone the distance through booms and recessions and they can help you go the distance, too.
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