Daimler Trucks: On the Road to Continuous Improvement
By: SupplyChainBrain May 29, 2014
Daimler Trucks North America committed to lean management in 2012 and its seven parts distribution centers are full participants in that initiative. Carlos Billingsley, director of operations at the parts DCs, explains how the lean program has created a culture of continuous improvement.
Each of Daimler Trucks’ seven distribution centers in North America (six in the U.S. and one in Canada) has a professional on site responsible for helping each facility institute lean principles in the areas of safety, quality, cost, delivery and the environment, says Billingsley.
“We are always looking to see if our employees are adhering to work standards and how the leadership team is guiding and directing them through the standards to improve quality to the customer,” he says. Importantly, Daimler’s lean program allows teams to look upstream and downstream in the supply chain, he says. “So we are working closely with major suppliers to improve the quality of their delivery and to improve packaging in ways that will allow our employees to be more efficient.”
In the parts distribution centers, the biggest focus of the lean program is reducing the time it takes to move parts from inbound trucks to storage shelves and to pick orders and reload for outbound delivery. In addition to improving service to the customer, greater throughput velocity also results in less inventory sitting on shelves, he says.
Lean performance is constantly measured with an eye toward continuous improvement, says Billingsley. “First of all, we take advantage of hour-by-hour boards and visuals at the team level that show progress toward daily goals,” he says. In addition, twice a day the leadership team meets to review operations and decide if any resources need to be reallocated to different areas of the facility to ensure success for that day, Billingsley explains. Another meeting at the end of the day assesses performance and makes any needed adjustments for the following day. “What really is interesting is that every week we have a discussion with all the facilities to talk about the metrics they each achieved during the week and to share ideas for improvements,” he says. Additionally, employees are encouraged to make suggestions to improve the performance of their team and facility.
A focus of the lean program in 2014 is to reduce transit time to customers, says Billingsley. “In our business, time is money, so whatever time we can save on transportation to the customers will help them be more efficient and improve their bottom line,” he says.