A Lean Supply Chain Manifesto

In an age of extended global supply chains, when companies must be demand-driven and agile, what does Lean really mean?


Advocates of Lean emphasize that it is a long-term, ongoing project, a journey, if you will. Lean Manufacturing can be hard enough to implement well because of the requirement to bring multiple functions together from across the enterprise to agree on a universal set of strategies, goals and metrics. Lean Supply Chain only increases the complexity and the difficulty. As WhereNet's Latham says: "These Lean Supply Chain theories have been around for a long time, and people have thought these things through and produced reams of data on how to do it. But the issue isn't that we don't have any ideas on how to do it. The issue is that there are too many parties in the supply chain that have to all agree."

Of course, if it were easy, anyone could do it, and the competitive advantage of doing Lean Supply Chain would disappear, just as the benefits of Lean Manufacturing are diminishing over time as more companies embrace it. For the time being, however, Lean Supply Chain still holds out the promise that it can provide a competitive edge to those enterprises willing to make the investments, and the changes, necessary to begin the journey. Easy? Not a chance. Rewarding? Most likely. A necessity? Absolutely.

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