The theory of lean distribution is based on the doctrine of lean manufacturing. The ideology of lean manufacturing initially grew out of Toyota’s Production Management approach. It considers that any resource that is used which does not create a value for the end product or the customer is wasteful in nature and is thus a target for elimination.
Understanding from the perspective of a customer who uses the end product or service, it is defined as any process/ action for which a customer would be willing to pay for. In totality, the final goal of lean methodology is to enhance more value of the final product with less work and effort.
In the process of lean distribution, the lean policy starts with the customer order. It applies to tools and techniques that help to streamline and improve material flow, minimize errors, do away with unnecessary material handling, maximizing facility utilization and improving management of inventory.
However, applying the lean methodology in a distribution environment may not be an easy task due to one critical element; variability. In the earlier example of mass production processes, the nature of production is both consistent and repetitive in nature. But distribution operations are almost the opposite, and are highly fluid in nature.
Order quantities from customers differ in size, time sensitivity, product mix and plenty of other factors. Thus the amount of work needed to satisfy these orders have to be customized in nature. This variability generates challenges when lean concepts are applied in distribution. But by following a few steps mentioned below, the challenges involved in lean distribution can be overcome with encouraging results. Following are steps to successfully implementing lean distribution. Following them in true spirit can help a company gain maximum reward:
1) Establish objectives, goals and policies
2) Assessment of current processes.
3) Conduct studies and improve to newer processes
4) Incentivize your employees on any new Kaizen idea they generate in this subject.