Lloyd’s Confuses Lean with Outsourcing | The Strategic Sourcerer

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“Lean manufacturing practices can create efficiency and reduce waste, but smaller inventories put companies at risk for major supply chain disruptions. Many organizations are reconsidering their procurement strategies for emergency preparedness after discovering their operational vulnerability in the aftermath of the 2011 earthquake and tsunami in Japan, as well as the flooding in Thailand, according to Lloyd’s.”

Michel Baudin‘s insight:

Since when is purchasing parts from half-way around the world a “Lean manufacturing practice”? Toyota and Honda do import parts into the US from Japan, but they have been working steadily to increase the domestic content of the cars they build in the US.

In a Lean supply chain, you use as many local suppliers as possible and  only buy from afar if you can’t help it. And local suppliers are subject to the same disasters as you, and inventory in the pipeline is just one more asset that can be destroyed in the earthquake or tsunami.

In the late 1930s, the German aircraft industry organized its supply chain in a system called “ABC,” which involved frequent deliveries from nearby suppliers and almost no inventory at the assembly site. It was in anticipation of a man-made disaster: enemy air raids. Allied bombs could not destroy components that had yet tp be made.

The article just reiterates the old belief that you can protect yourself against shortages by holding inventory. It may work for crude oil, but not for the 30,000 items needed to build a car. To protect against a Fukushima type event, you would have to keep weeks of safety stocks of all the items all the time, which is not a practical idea.

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