Achieving Great Things

Lean Quote Roundup

Leonard Bernstein, a composer and orchestra director, isn’t mentioned in any supply chain book I’ve read. However, I love his quote that hangs above my computer:

“To achieve great things, two things are needed; a plan, and not quite enough time.”

The pressure of a deadline has a unique way of motivating action. Even if a plan isn’t perfect, the momentum from starting helps course correct and guide to the final goal.

Personal Significance

Recently, my company was able to clear out most of its obsolete inventory to a liquidation partner with a single order. In total, this included a fifth of everything we stocked–quite a bit of product. To make the project more challenging, we needed to repackage everything into different configurations. This rework amounted to 850,000 touches in two weeks; the task daunted my small crew and me.

I jumped into the production plan. Any mistakes at the front would hinder us from filling the order with variety packs, because if we used the wrong SKUs at the beginning, we would end up with the wrong ones at the end. I built a simulation in Excel that laid out exactly what items should be in each of the cases. It wasn’t perfect; I knew some of the inventory numbers were incorrect, but it helped me move forward in the right direction.

Since my team was busy with our usual orders, I brought on a new team of temporary employees just for the order. I even had my wife come in, since she was on summer break from teaching. We lined up everything numerically, built an assembly line to pack the boxes, and worked tirelessly. While slow at first, everyone contributed ideas of how to improve speed and quality. After instituting many suggestions, we reached a pace previously thought unachievable. Pallet after pallet filled our warehouse with product that was ready to ship. As the final Friday deadline rolled by, we were calmly cleaning up because we had finished ahead of schedule.

Now I’m not sure everyone would concur that several truckloads of reworked product qualifies as a ‘great thing’, but to me and my company, it was.

What’s your recent great thing? Please add your Comment below and share your story.

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