Category Archives: Supplier
About a year ago, when I was merely a “Guest Post”-er, I wrote this little piece about some really interesting things I read about in a book called Guitar Lessons written by the co-founder and namesake of Taylor Guitars. As a companion to both that post and the one earlier this week with some personal Lean inspiration, I wanted to share another link and story that fits both categories.
(As an aside, it was brought to my attention that I may have quoted an incorrect number in the previous post, but I wasn’t able to get confirmation on that. If anyone with Taylor would like me to correct it and is willing to help, let me know.)
This really cool piece of information comes in the form of the most recent copy of the company’s magazine “Wood & Steel” and is written by the other co-founder (and CEO) of the company, Kurt Listug. (If you clicked on the file, I’m referring to “Kurt’s Corner” that shows up on the left side of the .pdf page 3 or magazine page 4). In his ‘Corner’, Listug refers to a “Process Improvement Project” that sounds, as a whole, like it was build on some hardcore Lean principles. I don’t pretend to know enough about what goes on at their facility to make a judgement either way on what or how they are doing what they do. What I do know is that it excites me to read about companies using these types of concepts (whether built directly on Lean/TPS or not) to do things like 20% increases in daily production, improved quality, reduced queue times from weeks to next day, and growing employment built around value adding work. These successes, whether I had a hand in them or not, remind me of why I chose to work in this field. I have no idea what Taylor’s path looks like from here, but I do appreciate reading about companies that are working to try to be the best they can be.
I realize I sound like a fanboy for Taylor and that’s fine. If I didn’t own a couple of their guitars, I wouldn’t have received the magazine to read in the first place. But, in addition to the small piece above, I highly recommend at least 2 other pieces in that publication. The first is a piece on Taylor’s involvement in Ebony supplying in Cameroon. (It starts on magazine page 12, pdf page 7). On it’s own, it’s a fascinating story about a company getting involved in its own supply chain, finding a way to work with existing government regulations, creating a better situation for the people and the forests in the area, and pretty much turning that in to a role supplying their competitors. From a purely business standpoint, I’d read an entire book on the way this evolved, regardless of what company was involved. The other small piece is from an ongoing bit they started called “What are you working on?” where they talk to people that work in their factories about their jobs. (Magazine page 28, pdf page 15). As somebody who is engrossed with manufacturing, I find it fascinating to see what people do in their plants.
I hope you enjoyed reading some of the pieces (if you were able). I always enjoy seeing what other people are doing to make their business run better and I love finding little bits of inspiration in places where I’m otherwise looking for a distraction.
Have a great weekend!
Earlier this week I had a post about how learning is essential to the lean mentality. A video from the Born to Learn website on the My Flexible Pencil blog got me thinking about this subject.
The subject is still on my mind as I work with some of the innovation groups at my company. These are groups that are coming up with new product ideas for the company. One process I have been working with the group on is how to collaborate with our suppliers to modify and create better and more cost effective products.
The company has had relationships with the suppliers for 20+ years. These relationships have strictly been about execution of product manufacturing. The company would design a product and tell the supplier to build it. Over the last couple of years, the company has gotten more behind innovation and re-organized its structure to support the new behaviors that are wanted.
Now, the innovation groups would like to have the suppliers’ collaboration in designing new products, defining what technology could be used to meet the consumer insights and how to make it more cost effective. This is great. Except there is one catch. The suppliers have been trained to not make mistakes and just execute. They have not had the experience of bringing up ideas and even failing with them. How will the customer react? Will they be unhappy? The suppliers are accustomed to having to execute to the specs or receiving lashes for not delivering on time and within cost.
It is similar to telling your kids to sit still and not touch for years. They become really good at it. Then all of a sudden telling them they can run around and touch and play with things. Could you imagine the look of horror on their faces after having the opposite pounded into them until they were incredible at it?
Even in business we have to continue to give outlets and experiences for people to try new things and be accepting of failure. This doesn’t mean to try anything at anytime and be reckless about it. But having a plan and trying things that haven’t been done before or even retrying things that were attempted in the past when business conditions were different.
Innovative products, ideas, and processes come from experimenting. Experimenting is about learning. So, without learning innovation is not possible.
The post talks about how a true supplier relationship is built on trust and integrity. If you want a true partnership and collaboration with your suppliers you can’t be looking to ditch them at the first sight of saving a penny. Working with the suppliers during bad times to help them get better is a great way to build the trust and shows integrity on your behalf.