Tag Archives: equipment

Thankful for Inventory

ThankfulI heard a tongue-in-cheek radio ad for a local tobacco shop yesterday extolling the secondary benefits derived from tobacco, namely the tobacco sales tax.  Supposing the moneys actually go to fund their publicized causes (road and bridge improvements, aid to expectant mothers and of course a mandated marketing campaign decrying the dangers of tobacco) we should be “thankful”, according the ad, for tobacco.   The bizarreness of this premise inspired the following parody:

Be thankful for inventory!

  • It’s an asset, like ‘money in the bank.’ Though not quite as liquid as cash, this asset can be used as collateral to borrow from the bank – perhaps to buy more equipment to build or store more inventory.
  • Larger inventory lots reduce the need for costly changeovers.   Optimizing these quantities is axiomatic to absorption and equipment utilization.
  • Inventory is a protection against machine downtime.   Who would risk deliveries to customers by producing only what is needed when pesky machine breakdowns are likely?
  • In slow periods, building inventory to forecast keeps our workers and equipment busy.   (And once we figure out how to forecast future needs accurately it will reduce overtime in peak periods as well.)
  • Purchasing economical lot sizes reduces piece costs, which of course increases profits.  Right?  Is a container load such a bad thing?  In any event, ordering overseas purchases would be problematical without pallet load lot-sizing.
  • Larger lots reduce sampling inspection costs and associated paperwork. Our quality system requires minimum lots to conform to sampling standards.  We’ve calculated the EOQs and these are our targets.
  • Larger lots reduce stock-outs.  If we are constantly running out of parts our customers will be affected.  We should be thankful for safety stock.  After all, safety is one of the most basic principles of Lean.

These premises unfortunately have about the same validity as those in the tobacco shop advertisement.   Inventory, like cigarettes, is an addiction with short-term perceived benefits but long-term negative consequences.  And bizarre as these premises may appear, they’ve all been uttered to me recently by well-meaning managers who struggle to see inventory as a symptom of many business problems.

Can you add to the list?  What are some other reasons that we are “thankful” for inventory?  Please share a couple.    And have a Happy Thanksgiving!


BTW:  My next free webinar is fast approaching.  Sign up here for “Tea Time with Toast Dude.”  The topic will be “Killer Measures”, traditional measures that can derail your lean implementation.  Hope you can join me on Tuesday, December 10 from 3:00 – 3:40 p.m. EST.  Read more & register.

Seeing the Invisible

[This post celebrates the product launch for a great new book Seeing The Invisible, authored by GBMP’s friend and collaborator, John Kravontka, and published by GBMP.]

seeinginvisibleSummer time is synonymous for me with a trip to the amusement park.  I took my twins to Wonderland Park when they were just four years old, a déjà vu experience that transported me be back fifty years.  As my kids climbed onto the fire engine ride, I realized that this was the very same ride that I had loved when I was four years old.  Amidst the other high speed, high tech amusements, the fire engines existed in sharp relief, harkening to a simpler time period when children’s imagination required fewer bells and whistles.  Not being an especially nostalgic person, I was nonetheless impressed by the staying power of this simple amusement.  A line of enthusiastic children still waited in queue for this ride; same as when I was a kid.

Last summer, I noticed someone working on the fire engines just before the park opened for business, and felt compelled to let him know, “This ride is older than me.  I used to ride these engines when I was a kid. How do you keep them in such good shape?”

The maintenance tech smiled and replied, “We take care to lubricate the moving parts and we pretty much know what wears and when service will be needed.  These old engines don’t do much, but they’ve carried delighted kids for millions of miles. I would expect that your grandchildren will also be riding these engines at some point.  We’ve learned a lot about them over the years and we keep them in better than new condition.”

More recently, I had a similar exchange at a local factory with a machine shop manager.  Pointing to an ancient grinding machine, the manager echoed the thoughts from the amusement park:  “This old grinder doesn’t do much – no bells or whistles like many of our newer machines – but what it does do it does very consistently.”   “How do you keep it in such good shape?” I asked.  His reply: “We know this machine very well, where and when it will need service.  We treat it well and it returns the favor.”

Thoughtful preventative maintenance, be it at an amusement park, a factory, a laboratory or an operating room, creates a stable environment that favors safety, productivity and continuous improvement.  Yet, regular PM continues to be more of an exceptional condition rather than the norm.  There are so many simple opportunities to maintain equipment that just hide in plain sight, invisible to operators and maintenance techs.  The costs too are hidden in longer run times, injuries, defects, customer service and employee frustration.

Is your de facto standard  “run to failure”?   Do you see the simple opportunities to maintain your equipment in better than new condition or are they invisible to you?  Please share a story — and check out Seeing the Invisible, on sale beginning Monday July 29, 2013 at www.shopgbmp.org.


BTW:  Don’t forget…August 13 is my second webinar, “Tea Time with the Toast Dude”, 3:00 – 3:45 pm (Eastern), the topic: Management Kaizen…one of my favorites. And of course, the 9th Annual Northeast Shingo Conference is fast approaching – September 24-25 in Hyannis MA. The line up looks great and the benchmarking and networking is always terrific. I can’t wait and hope to see you there!