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Taking steps toward a lean supply chain

An all-too-common occurrence in the logistics industry is supply chains growing along with your company, but eventually become a bit too bloated to run at an optimal level. While there may only be some concerns here and there as supply chains evolve, it’s wise for companies to do all in their power to slim down those inefficiencies and get their operations as lean as possible.

The biggest key to operating a lean supply chain and operation is for companies to make sure they build themselves out with flexibility in mind, industry expert Don Marshall told Supply Chain Digital. Every growth and investment decision should be made with the idea of being able to remain agile even as the business adapts to industry trends. That could be as simple as investing in smaller tech that’s easy to build on, such as by adopting RFID tags for various aspects of your operations, or as big as moving to a building that’s perhaps a bit bigger than is necessary today so the business can grow comfortably into a stronger future.

In addition, it’s often a good idea to keep an employee pool relatively small, as a means of ensuring everyone is on the same page, Marshall told the site. While this obviously doesn’t mean companies should cut the talent they have, being a little more cautious about undertaking temporary hiring sprees could serve them well in the future.

Look for ways to slim down logistics operations.Look for ways to slim down logistics operations.

Digging into the processes
While the above is certainly an outline for how companies can build the infrastructure needed to support themselves as they slim down their supply chain, there are many processes that go into making that a reality, according to The Balance Small Business. That starts with procurement; it’s vital to ensure one hand knows what the other is doing at all times, so duplicate orders of items to ship or materials used in production are kept to a minimum and there is no wasted money or space.

Likewise, it’s important to make sure warehousing practices are kept streamlined, with on-hand inventory numbers kept just-right, and everything arranged so the most wanted items are easily accessible for pickers and packers, the report said. Then, everything can be shipped out with greater efficiency, keeping transport costs to a minimum as well.


Getting it right
Of course, for companies to truly succeed in slimming down their supply chain, they need insight into – and buy-in from – every department, according to long-time industry leader Chris Anton, writing for Supply & Demand Chain Executive.

“From a warehouse and distribution center view, this would be an excellent time to actually practice another old-school management technique: management by walking around or MBWA,” Anton wrote. “Take the time to explore the distribution center, looking at obvious places to evaluate.”

That kind of teamwork not only makes the vision behind these changes more likely to address company-wide needs, but also requires everyone to understand the benefits they will reap from pulling in the same direction on the project from Day 1.

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