The Lean Supply Chain

Ho, Ho, Horribly Inefficient

I figured that since I’m always talking about how technology can enable a good (and lean) process, I’d also point out how it can highlight a bad process for improvement.

To find an example of this at this time of year you have to look no further than your post office for a lesson in inefficiency.

I had ordered my wife a birthday present recently (yes it coincides with the Christmas rush!) thinking that a week would be more than enough time to get a small package from outside of Philadelphia to Central New Jersey (only 64 miles).

While it still might get here within a week (but a day late for her birthday, which I’ll never hear the end of), thanks to modern technology, I was able to track the shipment…talk about “circuitous routing”. This package has as many stops as Santa Claus and still hasn’t reached its final destination….

Date & Time

Status of Item

Location

December 20, 2013 , 1:54 am

Processed through USPS Sort Facility

TRENTON, NJ 08650 

December 19, 2013 , 10:34 am

Processed through USPS Sort Facility

ATLANTIC HIGHLANDS, NJ 07716 

December 19, 2013 , 8:47 am

Out for Delivery

ATLANTIC HIGHLANDS, NJ 07716 

December 19, 2013 , 8:37 am

Sorting Complete

ATLANTIC HIGHLANDS, NJ 07716 

December 19, 2013 , 8:23 am

Arrival at Post Office

ATLANTIC HIGHLANDS, NJ 07716 

December 19, 2013

Depart USPS Sort Facility

TRENTON, NJ 08650 

December 19, 2013 , 4:45 am

Processed through USPS Sort Facility

TRENTON, NJ 08650 

December 17, 2013

Depart USPS Sort Facility

PHILADELPHIA, PA 19176 

December 17, 2013 , 7:49 pm

Processed at USPS Origin Sort Facility

PHILADELPHIA, PA 19176 

December 17, 2013 , 6:34 pm

Accepted at USPS Origin Sort Facility

ELKINS PARK, PA 19027 

December 13, 2013

Electronic Shipping Info Received

 

This demonstrates the fact that with the whole world now “wired” and connected via the internet, our inefficiencies are not only exposed to ourselves but potentially to our customers and partners.

While the US Post Office has long been a target of jokes (ex: “46 cents is a really good price to mail a letter; 6 cents for delivery and 40 cents for the storage”), this can be used to illustrate that technology can be useful to not only enable a good process, but to help improve a bad one.

Maybe we should think of computerized tracking as a kind of tool of root cause analysis (or use it to create a simple value stream map) that enables us to look at our distribution network for inefficiencies or non-value added activities such as excess storage, handling or movement.

So here’s to all of us getting our holiday presents on time (and in one piece) this year. Maybe Santa will start a tracking service next year which will lead to the elves and reindeers running a leaner operation!

On that note, I’d like to wish everyone Season’s Greetings and a Happy New Year.

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