I recently had the opportunity to ask Robert Martichenko and Kevin von Grabe some questions regarding their new book Building a Lean Fulfillment Stream. I have not had a chance to read the book yet but I have flipped through it to come up with my questions. I am excited to read it since I have not done any fulfillment stream projects or outside supplier work yet on my Lean journey.
1. At what point in the Lean journey do you recommend improving the fulfillment stream? Is this more advanced thinking or can be done in parallel in the beginning?
There are a few different approaches that can be taken.
a) You can improve the fulfillment stream in parallel with the other aspects of your Lean Journey. If you take this approach it is important to note that you may be making improvements in the fulfillment stream ahead of being able to fully leverage the improvements.
b) You can improve the fulfillment stream as it becomes a constraint on your Lean Journey. In other words you have a manufacturing strategy and your fulfillment stream is preventing you from taking the next step, you then transfer focus to those constraints.
2. How is the book relevant for service industries such as hospitals?
The section in the workbook regarding SKU classification and rationalization is particularly relevant for service industries. In hospitals SKU complexity is a problem as each practitioner has preferences regarding supplies, tools and equipment. This poses traditional fulfillment stream challenges regarding inventory levels, stocking locations and replenishment methods.
3. The book has a calculation for keeping both buffer stock and safety stock. How do you see these two as different and why have both?
It is important to calculate buffer stock and safety stock separately and to review your inventory levels frequently. Buffer stock protects you from common cause variation in demand. You should routinely have a need to use buffer stock as demand fluctuates. Safety stock protects you from special cause variation in demand. You should rarely have a need to use safety stock and when you do “dip” into safety stock it is critical that you understand the root cause of the variation.
Would you answer any of questions differently?
Full disclosure: The publisher sent me a review copy of the book.
Keep on improving!