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Speed to Market: Becoming Lean Through Outsourcing

By: Dave Becker
Posted: June 3, 2010, from the June 2010 issue of GCI Magazine.

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Along with all the potential for savings, outsourcing also presents challenges and pitfalls. A leaner supply chain can only be achieved when both parties are intentionally driving for the same goal.

Exchanging performance feedback and creative ideas to improve processes is necessary for both companies to grow and improve. Experts also insist that becoming lean through outsourcing requires constant communication and realistic expectations.

“Look for companies on a continuous cycle of implementing initiatives,” suggests Ames. “Neways Inc. is obsessed with quality and on-time deliveries. If one of our initiatives positively affects this measurement, then we build on it. If it doesn’t, we review it, change it, or throw it out and try something else.” Constant improvement of focused goals is the best way for a company to create an ongoing culture of lean manufacturing, and the effects always trickle down.

Truly, lean suppliers make their customers leaner.

Micromanaging is an important trap to avoid. While collaboration is essential, dictating a process without fully understanding its implications will only lengthen and exacerbate the supply chain. If an outsourcing company has been qualified, trust it to understand the best way to meet your requirements. “Let your supplier help you,” Hunt advises. “In so many cases, a marketing company feels it understands manufacturing better than the manufacturer. This is a huge mistake.”