LEAN Supply Chain Planning: A book review by Bob Morris

LEAN Supply ChainLEAN Supply Chain Planning: The New Supply Chain Management Paradigm for Process Industries to Master Today’s VUCA World
Josef Packowski
CRC Press/Taylor & Francis Group (2014)

How to thrive in a VUCA world

Of all the areas of operation that organizations have, especially those in process industries, none can derive greater benefit from LEAN thinking and methodologies than can supply chain planning. Of course, even if the planning is supervised by the author of this book, Josef Packowski, the supply chain will not achieve the given objectives unless managed with meticulous care. The reverse is also true: brilliant management cannot solve all of the problems that result from a poor plan.

What we have in this volume is the introduction and examination of a “New Supply Chain Planning Paradigm,” one that offers “a new approach to managing variability, uncertainty, and complexity in today’s planning processes and systems.” As Packowski explains, “Within the new LEAN SCM Planning paradigm, we are mastering variables with a two-sided approach. We manage the demand variability in supply chain planning now on both sides, on manufacturing capacities and in inventories…To make this happen, we have developed a disciplined approach to the dynamic adaptation of inventory target levels to changing conditions along the supply chain.” In other words, the new planning paradigm offers end-to-end supply chain management in coordination with a transformation program with a holistic approach and a step change in performance. Organizations in process industries will thus be able to master today’s VUCA world, one in which volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity are more pervasive and disruption than at any prior time that I can recall.

More specifically, Packowski provides a brilliant explanation of business issues, initiatives, and challenges such as these:

o The compelling need for LEAN SCM today (Chapters 1-3)
o How to design and build LEAN SCM (4-7)
o What to implement and transform for LEAN SCM (8-11)
o How your industry peers gained benefits by LEAN SCM (12)

Part IV consists of one chapter, Chapter 12: “Read How Top-Industry Players Share Their Experiences with LEAN SCM.” This material is especially important because Packowski anchors key concepts in real-world experiences with LEAN SCM at AstraZeneca, Eli Lilly, Novartis, PharmaCo, and PCI (a BASF company). Obviously not all of this material is directly relevant to the needs and interests of every reader but each portion of it will be of substantial interest — and benefit — to some readers.

I especially appreciate Packowski’s skillful use of various reader-friendly devices such as an introduction that really does explain what this book is about (many others don’t), a “Reader’s Guide,” dozens of “Tables” and “Figures” inserted throughout the narrative, key point clusters in each of the chapters, and “Chapter Summaries.” These and other devices will facilitate, indeed expedite frequent review of key material later. I do very much regret the absence of an index. It is imperative that one be added if and when there is another edition.

When concluding the last chapter, Josef Packowski observes, “As shown by the industry cases in this chapter, leading companies from pharmaceutical and chemical companies are increasingly adopting LEAN principles and concepts in their supply chains. All these companies found that a more efficient management of variability results in substantial performance improvement. By reducing variability in the supply chains, both customer satisfaction and cost efficiency increased to a large extent.”

I presume to add that, although the information, insights, and counsel provided in this book will probably be of greatest value to large organizations with extensive and complicated supply chains, much of that same material can also be of great value to leaders of small organizations that are a part (albeit a small part) of those supply chains. Just as all organizations — regardless of size or nature — need effective leadership at all levels and in all areas, they also need LEAN thinking to make the right decisions that will increase productivity and efficiency by reducing waste.

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