Expert Insight

By John Mazock
Vice President of Manufacturing


Date: May 5, 2011

Supply Chain Comment: Understanding Lean Implementation in the Supply Chain

Applying Lean Principles Is A Business Philosophy And Management Strategy That Requires Commitment From All Levels of Business

The landscape of distribution centers and manufacturing environments are changing and companies are looking for opportunities to optimize people, processes and technology. Today’s business climate calls for companies to deploy Lean principles to all aspects of their operations. This frees up employees to focus on more value-added work and to drive similar improvements throughout the entire value stream.

So why do some businesses thrive in a Lean culture, while others struggle with Lean implementation?  

Applying Lean principles is not a short-term tactic or a cost-reduction program, but instead a business philosophy and a management strategy that develops into a work culture that pursues the elimination of wastes in all phases of the business processes. It takes commitment from all levels of the organization to develop a true Lean culture.

Common Mistakes When Implementing Lean Principles

Pull processing, perfect first-time quality, waste minimization, continuous improvement, flexibility, building and maintaining long-term relationships with suppliers, automation, load leveling, production flow and visual control are all components of Lean. Although these concepts are logical and somewhat intuitive in nature, a comprehensive understanding of Lean is necessary to avoid common mistakes made during Lean implementations. Some of the common pitfalls are:

  • Trying to implement Lean with a weak or incomplete strategy or with insufficient resources to gain significant traction. Training, target setting, and communication tools all need to be carefully planned for proper implementation of Lean. Lean embraces change, and resources are necessary to drive the process improvements. These improvements generate incentive to implement other ideas which fuels the continuous improvement engine.
  • Implementing Lean concepts beyond the Lean maturity level of the organization. This is a common mistake made by Lean implementers that have good theoretical knowledge, but lack practical experience. Jumping too quickly to an across-the-board JIT operation before completing a comprehensive assessment of the supply chain is a common error of this type.
  • Having a deep understanding of your business. Lean doesn’t offer cookie cutter solutions. The concepts need to be customized to fit your business. What works perfectly well in China, may fail miserably in Japan, how an automobile parts distribution warehouse implements Lean to control inventory, is going to be different than how a beverage warehouse manages inventory. Each Lean solution must match with the company size, industry, ethnic cultures, product price structure, location, environment and a number of other related variables.

Final Thoughts


Embracing, properly implementing and integrating Lean principles into your business process optimization strategy will inevitably lead to increased productivity and customer satisfaction, ultimately leading to increased profitability and business viability.

For more details on how you can implement Lean principles that drive process optimization solutions: go to

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About the Author

John Mazock is the Vice President of Manufacturing at Seegrid, a manufacturer of vision guided robotic industrial trucks. Mr. Mazock has 20 years of Manufacturing Management experience and is a Six Sigma Champion with expertise in Lean manufacturing and Quality Systems.

John received Sony’s Gold award for his participation in the start-up of a first synchronous CRT and television final assembly manufacturing system, and was recognized at Sony with a “Leads with Action” award. John holds a BS in Electrical Engineering.

For More information, please visit:

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