The Great Recession has forced the remaining manufacturing industries in the United States to rethink the way they do business, and the pallet industry is no exception. Although forced regionalization due to high supply-chain costs and JIT demands has benefitted local economies in which pallet companies continue to operate, the industry faces numerous challenges which can only be met by improving efficiency at every stage of production and distribution. Implementing lean management practices can significantly increase profitability of pallet companies which remain in operation.
As with any other industry, everything the pallet industry does is customer-driven, and what makes customers happy makes pallet companies profitable. While certain tenets of lean distribution are more applicable to retail companies shipping products in packaging of various sizes, there are plenty of potential areas for improvement within the wooden pallet industry.
The benefits of lean are not limited to shipping and distribution; when applied to the manufacturing process, fewer product defects result, leading to greater customer satisfaction and repeat orders. Perhaps even more importantly in terms of existing OSHA regulations, companies implementing lean practices are likely to have fewer injuries in the workplace and interruptions in the manufacturing process which affect the bottom line.
Educate and obtain buy-in from employees on lean management principles. By doing so, companies in the pallet industry can solve perennial problems and identify others which might previously have been chalked up to the cost of doing business.
Once your internal change agents are identified and are ready to tackle problems, look at every point along your distribution system, from the time the customer places an order to the moment they receive it – through the eyes of a newcomer to the company. Do not go in order of perceived order of importance (which different people will disagree upon anyway); instead, start at the beginning and consider how any and every aspect of your production and distribution would increase profits or otherwise benefit the company if done differently. You may very well find that "the way we've always done it" and other types of benign neglect are contributing to more readily identified problems. Address any issues which may be causing other problems, as doing so could very well save your company.
Although companies managed in a traditional, top-down style may find this to be challenging, invite front-line staff and entry-level management to contribute their knowledge of the production and distribution process. Perspectives may differ between the front line and upper management regarding volume of specific products ordered and what types of support are needed to meet customer demand, and identifying disconnects can be key to improving production and distribution and eliminating waste.
Lean management practices are all about improving flow so that production and distribution are driven by customer demand, not the often habitual internal practices of the company. HWP Herwood is committed to improving efficiency through lean management to benefit our customers and providing a safer workplace whiles our bottom line. Contact us today and learn more about our wooden packaging solutions.