Lost Art of Expediting – Flight Club

Fast job!

Expediter, in manufacturing that is job title that is all but extinct. If you’re too young to remember the Expediter was the person responsible to keep shit moving, I mean the one employed to ensure efficient movement of goods or supplies in a business.

This role was typically assigned to the production and inventory control department. You’re probably saying to yourself we have people that do that heck I do that but I’m not call an Expediter. The role was eliminated in the 80’s during the total quality management boon. No self-respecting lean, agile, world class, Toyota wannabe, Malcolm Baldridge award seeking company would ever need to employ an Expediter! That would simply be admitting your production system wasn’t robust enough to provide steady linkage and flow. So poof the job of Expediter was eliminated.

But of course we all know the job title gone but after three decades lean activities the job continues. Ask any procurement or material control employee how much time they spend expediting. If chasing delinquent orders wasn’t enough they’re now budgets, sales and inventory goals to consider (oftentimes conflicting). For these individuals work revolves around end of week, end of month, end of quarter and end of year.

I know every reader of this post is in an organization that is going to eliminate the need to expedite by implementing world class systems leveraging the latest technologies and attracting the most talented and motivated individuals to carry out the vision. However in the meantime for the small group of people that still performs this function under an assumed title here are the rules of “Expediter Club A.K.A Flight Club”!

Rules of Flight Club

  1. You do not talk about being in Flight Club; you’re a Supervisor, Purchasing Agent who happens to Expedite. Not a Expediter they no longer exist in world class organizations.
  2. You DO NOT talk about being a Flight Club; you’re a Supervisor, Purchasing Agent who happens to Expedite. Not a Expediter they no longer exist in world class organizations.
  3. If someone says stop or taps out don’t stress out just escalate issue to management. Never stress above your pay grade.
  4. Only ask for assistance or information twice before escalating issue to someone’s superior. Your job is to get things done not to nag.
  5. You can only have one allegiance and that’s to your company. Be fair, ethical and honest.
  6. No suits or ties Flight Club are for office soldiers only. Dockers are cool.
  7. Campaign shall continue until parts are delivered, goal has been met and customers both internal and external are satisfied.
  8. If this is your first job in supply management or procurement you MUST expedite. Don’t be fooled by the lofty job description and high level of required education much of your job will consist of pushing and pulling.

So there you have it Lean Soldier the rules of Flight Club!

You have comment or article please share we would love to hear from you.

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Edwards Deming

Edwards Deming

One memorable quote of W. Edwards Deming was “A bad system will beat a good person every time”. This is relevant because most organizations focused primarily on developing people not processes. The stars of these organizations are those who know how to work outside the system to get things done. If this is how your managers moved through the ranks there is little incentive for them to improve the process.


Think of politics today I believe we can all agree the government is no longer as functional as it was in the past. Government can no longer do even small things without a high level of drama and partisanship. In November of 2015 Congress has an approval rating of 11% but in 2014 95% of house members were reelected. How does this happen” Read Deming’s quote again but slower.

I’m afraid the same thing is happening in business as government. The PROCESS no longer yields results. How much time do you spend daily feeding information to a chart hungry organization? I ‘m a chart wonk myself but that is only one part of the process. The ultimate goal is not the chart but the actions taken after it’s generated. When the tools of improvement become the focus rather than the results of those tools than you’ve lost focus. We spend far too many hours generating data rather than solving problems. Too much time sharpening our axes but never swinging them! Teaching continuous improvement in an organization to all shouldn’t be your main focus RESULTS of that teaching should. It would be better to have the talented tenth of the organization learning and leading then mandating 100% participation then calling that success.

Organizations also spend an exorbitant amount of time on employee reviews. Deming saw employee reviews as a total waste of time for improving performance. I totally agree.

Deming wrote..

The fact is that the system that people work in and the interaction with people may account for 90 or 95 percent of performance”.

So basically whatever plan, goal or objective you and your manager agree upon it’s the process that will dictate success.

As Lean Soldier (Practitioner) our job is to lead the call in the elimination of waste wherever it’s found. Do you feel your activities are yielding results or just part of a larger dog and pony show? Regardless keep moving toward real change improving THE PROCESS that’s where exponential growth can be found.

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The purpose of lean manufacturing is simply to eliminate waste and increase value for customers and shareholders. The theory is to have optimum linkage and flow throughout your value stream. The rate of your production should match the rate of the demand. Sounds easy enough unfortunately there are always two assumptions made that typically derail the project from the start.

  1. The Customer demand will be level or will allowed to be leveled.
  2. Shared resources can be managed easily.

I’ve found these two assumptions the most common reasons lean implementation fails. Continue reading

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If you work in a medium or large organization I’ll bet there is a continuous improvement activity, in progress, planned or just completing. With so much emphasis on continuous improvement its mind boggling that 80% of implementations fail according to the Center of Excellence in Operations. That doesn’t surprise me while I’ve witnessed pockets of excellence yet to experience anywhere near the full potential of Continuous Improvement or Lean Transformation programs.
The reason for failure are numerous and typically obvious to most within an organization. Failures are result age old issues nothing new to see here.
• Focus on short term financial goals.
• Lack of Leadership.
• Silos competing and wrestling with conflicting goals.
• Targeting the wrong metrics
• Ineffective Communication

Continue reading

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What Every Supply Chain Graduate Should Know

Congratulation you just received your degree in supply chain management. You have chosen a rewarding, challenging and oftentimes frustrating profession. The business schools do an excellent job teaching the theory of supply chain management but it never comes close to simulating the real world experience. Without fail every graduate I’ve trained or mentored was more than mildly surprised at both the simplicity and complexity of the profession. Here are some of the comments of new supply chain professionals.

  • The position is nothing like how it was portrayed in college.
  • Did I really need a degree for this?
  • Business processes are not as robust as portrayed in college textbooks.
  • Does the organization recognize all the waste and inefficiencies?

If you’re a seasoned professional I’m sure that sounds familiar.
Continue reading

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Sasquatches, Yetis, Big Foot and Kanban

Have you noticed all the reality shows today in search mythical creatures? You have your Ghosts, Bigfoot’s, and Swamp Monsters of course don’t forget Aliens. Must admit some are entertaining I enjoy a good laugh or scare as well as the next guy but come on its entertainment first and foremost.

Whenever I watch these programs one thought keeps jumping into my mind. This reminds me of so many continuous improvement programs I’ve witnessed. Let me explain.

The narratives of these reality programs have slowly evolved. What once was a journey to prove the creature exists evolved into a hunt for a real creature!

For example a Bigfoot “expert” was interviewing a witness about a possible sighting. The so called expert had doubts about the validity of the claims because it didn’t follow a normal Bigfoot behavior. What? How can creature a mythical creature have behavioral attributes? That’s fine its television but the experts speak with the authority and gravitas that some viewers accept as fact. Now we see folks with big guns stumbling through fields and forests making elaborate traps trying to capture or kill a monster they have yet to prove exists! This is surely an accident waiting to happen.

Does this sound like a continuous improvement activity you’ve participated in? Whereas Bigfoot is one piece flow, zero defects, perfect inventory levels and 100 percent on time delivery. The consultants tell us the only place this beast can exist is Toyota. Everyone then tried to become Toyota to lure the beast out only to sadly discover it was never there.

Continuous Improvement is about getting better every day and knowing perfection in production just like Bigfoot doesn’t exist. Like the Bigfoot reality shows organizations have moved from the search for perfections to believing it really exists!

This belief will have organizations stumbling blindly through the forests spending money and setting traps to catch a creature that isn’t real. Each lean event like each TV episode will end with an empty trap with all the experts pointing to evidence that your almost there, just missed it.

Instead you should make incremental changes of improvement which is real. Remember you don’t have to be perfect just better than your competition.


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Four Legal Terms Regarding Ethics Procurement Professionals Should Review

ethicsEthics in procurement has been a hot topic for many years. Ethics is more than just what is right or wrong or what is legal or illegal. Your company’s ethical practices reflect the culture of your organization as a whole. Simply put it’s your organizations moral principles put in action.

Being ethical doesn’t mean you can’t be a firm negotiator or a make shrewd business moves. On the contrary, ethical negotiations provide organizations the high ground needed to operate in good faith.

Every Lean Practitioner in procurement should be aware and review periodically the main laws governing ethics in the workplace.

Disparagement – This refers to making statements of fact that are misleading or untrue regarding another company’s product or service. This is typically done to influence consumer not to buy the a competitors product.

Libel – Is published false statement that is damaging to a person’s reputation; a written defamation. The value of your reputations is highly valued in the United States and there are laws protection individuals and companies from defamation.

Slander – This is simply Libel in oral form. Libel is written defamation and slander is spoken defamation.

Bribery – Commercial bribery refers to giving of gifts, cash or other favors in return for business. Throughout the years rules on gifts and gratuities especially for governmental entities has tightened substantially. What used to be standard business practices may now be illegal. Be sure your company is up to date and familiar with the latest rules and regulations.

What are your thoughts regarding ethics in procurement? Do you any stories to share would you like to submit a guest post on any form of continual improvement? If so just let us know.

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Has your parent company had “The Talk” with you? You know that sometimes awkward talk about Lean Manufacturing principles. Awkward because parent companies themselves have tainted and wasteful pasts and probably isn’t really practicing safe Lean even today.

Most companies from my experience fall in three categories.

1. Have “The Talk” continually but never relinquish the reigns of control to implement the teachings.

2. Have “The Talk” because it’s a good marketing bullet point plus they don’t want employees learning it on the street.

3. Have “The Talk” serious about implementation relinquished enough control for rank and file to operate only to have a disease flares up and stall progress.

Lean Manufacturing is simply a continuous improvement activity that seeks to remove all waste from the process. Lean solutions are common sense practices that should be woven into the moral fabric of your organization. Most larger organizations talk and train on this relentlessly. However culture change is difficult when it’s not organic.

Like most things corporate or governmental it (The Lean Talk) has to be named packaged and delivered in a sterile regimented and cookie cutter fashion normally delivered from an outsider. Implementation is oftentimes overly complicated with little room for variation. Without ability for each product to choose its own path or solution the parent oftentimes sets up an arranged solution. Continue reading

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Continuous improvement is more than just a business philosophy but also a personal endeavor. I recall one anecdote in my childhood that always stuck with me. It was geared toward teenage girls however its true for both male and females of any age.

It goes like this …..

While walking home from work at the mall one day you look down to find a hundred dollars in cash! You’re incredibly happy because it was payday and you had a $100.00 check in your pocket. You notify lost and found at the mall who says the money is yours if no one claims it in seven days. You rush home and tell your parents who are happy for you and proud of your honesty. However they ask one interesting question.

Today you had $200 all at once, $100.00 in cash and $100.00 found. Which $100.00 dollars do you value more and why?

Most kids will give you a puzzled look since both check and found money are monetarily equal. After a moment of reflection they will almost always say the check is of more value.

Why, because I had to work for it.

As parent this is your time to provide the relevance of the question.

Remember if someone wants your time and affection make them work for it. If they’re not willing to put in the work that should let you how little they value you. I’d much rather be earned money than free money! What about you?

Have an anecdote you like to share, I would be glad to publish.

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SCRUM – Has Your Time Come?

Fast job!Scrum “The Art of Doing Twice the Work in Half the Time” is a book written by Jeff Sutherland Co-Creator of the Scrum methodology. The word scrum is from rugby you know when players form up with arms interlocked and heads down, and push forward against a similar group from the opposing side. So you get the symbolism.

This book is yet another attempt to get across the lean manufacturing concept derived from Japanese manufacturing practices. Continue reading

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