Supply Chain Management: Get Lean or Die

By Winshuttle Staff Blogger on Oct 7, 2015

The principles, techniques and methodologies of Lean Manufacturing focus on removing waste from production processes and only keeping elements that add value (always with a continuous-improvement approach). Lean concepts have been used with great results in a wide range of domains and industries including Lean accounting, Lean IT, and Lean HR among others.

Supply Chain Management is an area where the Lean culture is widely present, mainly because it originated and developed in the manufacturing and production processes of Toyota in the 50s to 70s. But Lean SCM professionals that work with complex ERP systems (like SAP or Oracle) live in a paradoxical world:

  • Out of the ERP world, they are continuously improving their processes and removing waste around their processes in small incremental steps.
  • When they need to improve ERP, they cannot apply these techniques due to the rigidity of the ERP system.

These professionals have limitations impeding them to apply the same lean principles to ERP; but this is not a situation that can last long. All ERP data management processes running our operations require continuous improvement and zero waste.

The Lean factor

As we mentioned, Lean started in automotive manufacturing, and quickly spread to other industries and departments. Among these industries, we can identify “the Lean factor” working and changing the old ecosystem. In any industry sector that isn’t running a lean approach, something interesting happens after one or two players start implementing Lean (continuous improvement and removal of waste). They will likely force all other players to either adopt Lean or die; it is pure Darwinism, a natural selection and survival of the fittest.

Let’s take a look at the automotive sector productivity from 1965 to 1979 – the period where Toyota (and other Japanese car manufacturers like Nissan) were moving in the Lean direction:

SCM02-01-Lean Graph

From 1965 to 1979, the top three US car manufacturers (GM, Ford and Chrysler) kept their productivity at the same level (5 vehicles per worker) but Nissan moved from 4 to 11 and Toyota from 7 to 15. This only illustrates increased productivity, but all of us know the quality reputation of Japanese cars, and this was built over the increase in quality that doubled or tripled over these years. All other car manufacturers had two options: embrace Lean and go the same direction or slowly lose their market and disappear or be absorbed by another company.

The Lean factor is the force behind Toyota taking the number one slot in global car sales in 2008, with not only higher productivity and quality but also bigger margins than its competitors.

Present and future of Supply Chain Management

All SCM professionals today are faced with the same dilemma:

  • Processes need to continue improving as the market demands more and more.
  • Management looks to SCM as a strategic part of the company and demands not only cost reduction but added value
  • But their ERP is stopping or delaying from improving their processes with the flexibility they need

How are they going to achieve these objectives? By keeping the same approach to their ERP? Or by applying Lean techniques, which they know and trust for continuous improvement? The answer is easy – Go Lean! However, the ERP straitjacket is still holding us back. How can we break free, but keep the solid foundations of our existing ERP? The answer is Winshuttle’s Lean Data Management platform.

Lean Data Management

Winshuttle’s Lean Data Management approach allows you to manage ERP data in your enterprise through the use of lean applications that streamline data collection, validation and movement. Our lean applications are built iteratively in short cycle times, so you can gain quick wins now, instead of the waiting months or years needed for custom development.


With Winshuttle’s Lean Data Management, SCM managers can:

  • Apply continuous improvement to the SCM ERP based processes and get rid of the ERP straitjacket
  • Increase the service level of the SCM ERP based processes and become more strategic
  • Leverage a single platform to continuously improve any ERP based process

About the author

Staff Blogger

The Winshuttle blog is written by professional thought leaders who are dedicated to providing content on a variety of topics, including industry news, best practices, software updates, continued education, tips and techniques, and much more.

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