"When you are moving goods all over the world, a lot of handling and waste creeps into the process," says Rick Desmarais, director of the supply chain for J&J's medical devices and diagnostics group. "We think there are real opportunities for broad-based value to customers and reduced cost to the enterprise by implementing lean throughout the supply chain."
At its core, lean is about the elimination of waste, Desmarais explains, noting that the eight "deadly waste" areas are transportation, inventory, motion, talent, waiting, over-production, over-processing and defects. "The supply chain introduces a lot of those potential wastes," he says.
While J&J has a number of years of experience with lean in manufacturing, where its successes are well documented, the supply chain represents a new area where the company wants to develop lean competency, Desmarais says. "We are taking a similar approach as with manufacturing to try and replicate our success," he says. This means training workers on lean principles and the DMAIC model: Define the opportunity, Measure performance, Analyze Opportunity, Improve performance and Control performance. "By challenging our managers to become lean thinkers, we will develop an army of folks who will be implementing waste reduction technologies throughout the supply chain."
J&J has been working on this project for about a year and already the company is seeing results, says Desmarais. "We are a growing enterprise so we need to be able to do more with less," he says. "With our lean program, we have realized significant productivity gains." For example, he says, the company has been able to launch new products without adding to its existing infrastructure. "We also have reduced cycle times because when you take out waste, your processes become faster and more reliable and predictable," he says.
J&J is still early in its lean supply chain journey, says Desmarais, "but we think we are on the right track and we are generating leaders who will bring lean thinking to all our various transactional processes, which will really move the business ahead."
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Keywords: supply chain management, supply chain management IT, inventory control, sourcing solutions, lean supply chain management practices
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