Tag Archives: Fun & Funny

“I Fight for the Users!” – What Tron Taught Me about Serving Customers

A Review of the Movies

In the Disney movies Tron and Tron: Legacy, the character for whom the movies are named famously declares, “I Fight for the Users!” In the world those movies create, the Tron character is passionately loyal to the humans who designed and use the computer program. It’s been a few years since Tron: Legacy came out, so here’s a short clip to remember the movie:

Tron - UserYouTube – Tron Recognizes a User

Toward the end of the clip, Tron (also known as Rinzler) sees his opponent bleed and realizes that his opponent is a user (human). Because of his loyalty to users, Tron refrains from killing the human. At the end of the movie, Tron sacrifices himself to save the humans from being killed:

Tron - I fight for the UsersYouTube – Tron Realizes He Fights for the Users

The reason I’m fascinated by Tron’s loyalty to the users is that my supply chain should have equal loyalty to the customers. In all our efforts to fight waste and inefficiencies, we should boldly declare, like Tron, “I Fight for the Customers.” For some reason, however, I often ignore or stop paying attention to the voice of the customer and find myself fighting against, instead of for, the customer.

Voice of the Customer and Putting Away Christmas Decorations

A poignant example of ignoring the voice of the customer happened recently while I was putting away my home’s Christmas decorations. The Christmas lights are especially time-consuming to neatly organize, so I instead gathered everything into a giant ball and stuffed it into a plastic bin. I just wanted to get done as quickly as possible, so I told myself,” I’ll deal with untangling this mess next year.”

However, this is exactly what a good supply chain shouldn’t do. I’m creating a local optimum (putting away my decorations as quickly as possible) that will cause pain to my customer (in this case, me in 11 months). Since I am my own customer, I know the voice of the customer quite well. I remember untangling the lights just weeks before, and I know exactly what I should do to please the customer. I don’t though. Since it’s a hard task and it pays off now to just throw everything into a box, I do the minimum to get the job done when I could increase customer satisfaction.

“I Fight for the Customer”

This same type of local optimization occurs every day along the supply chain. As we get busy or deadlines get scrunched, we naturally reduce the effort we put into pleasing our customers. Whether it’s our internal customers or the end consumer, it’s easy to forget that how we stack a pallet or design a product can negatively affect our customer down the line.

Each day, I need to repeat “I Fight for the Customer” throughout process improvement and Kaizen efforts. As you and I battle inefficiencies and reduce waste, we should have the same natural instinct to stop what we’re doing when it threatens customer satisfaction. For example, I can reduce airspace in packaging boxes, but as soon as my product’s quality is compromised from being too tightly packaged, that’s the blood that should force me to rethink my initiative.

The Empty Chair at Amazon.com

In the early days of Amanzon.com, Jeff Bezos, CEO and customer service champion, reserved an empty chair at all important meetings. He told his team that the chair was reserved for the most important person in the company – the customer. He asked everyone to imagine the customer was sitting there and to keep her in mind in throughout all their decisions. Later, Bezos hired someone to sit in the chair and passionately represent the voice of the customer. This practice helped to guard Amazon against any initiatives that didn’t help its users, and kept everyone’s thoughts centered on who kept them in business.

How Can I Better Fight for the Customer?

What ways can you better proclaim “I Fight for the Customer” in your supply chain? Here are some questions to consider:

  • Do I have adequate channels that bring the voice of the customer to me?
  • Do I frequently review how process changes affect the customer?
  • Do I address both the external and internal customer experience in all major meetings?
  • How can everyone in my organization feel closer to our customers?
  • How can I prioritize initiatives more closely to fit customer needs?
  • How can I better share my voice, as well as my customers’ voices, with my vendors?

By bringing the customer back into focus with your daily efforts, your organization can better solve the needs of those that keep you in business. Building the resolve to fight for the users of your product and services will result in a more loyal and pleased customer base.

The Twelve Days of a Supply Chain Christmas

The holiday season is often a stressful time for most supply chains. Retail sales reach their peak, companies stretch to reach their yearly goals, and many companies prepare for Chinese New Year, which looms just around the corner.

Here’s a fun twist on a classic Carol. I’ve jumped to the last verse, but if you want to gather round your team and sing it, I’m sure you can figure out the other versus.

12 Days of Supply Chain Christmas

On the twelfth day of Christmas, my Supply Chain gave to me:

12-month rolling forecasts

11 product launches

10 bills of lading

9 new vendor contracts

8 inbound shipments

7 excel spreadsheets

6-sigma black belts

5S audit passed!

4 routing guides

3PL deliveries

2 forklift drivers

And a product that fills customers with glee!

To all of you that help keep the supply chains moving, we wish you a very Merry Christmas from Supply Chain Cowboy.

A Gift Idea for Logistics Coworkers

If you’re looking for a fun Christmas present for your coworkers, suppliers, or customers that help keep your supply chain moving, then consider giving these ornaments.

Logitics Ornaments

Unfortunately, Hallmark doesn’t sell either of these as one of their special edition ornaments yet, but they’re easy to assemble yourself.

Shipping Container Ornament

Building the shipping container ornament is very easy since you use a pre-made miniature container. I used a container that is sold for model trains by Walthers. Your local hobby store may have them, or there are several for sale on eBay. Just search HO Shipping Container. (HO is the scale that I used; several other scales can work as well.) I liked the 20-foot size, although your natural urge to reduce shipping costs at work may have you in the habit of looking at 40- or 45-foot high cube containers instead. If you’re buying from eBay, make sure you get an actual plastic container since many paper card containers are also for sale – and a supply chain cowboy never ships in paper containers.

Once you get the container you like, then you just need to attach the ornament hook.

Container Glue

To get a hook, you can either buy them from the dollar store, cannibalize an old ornament, or just grab a paper clip. I used pliers to straighten the wire out and then put a nice right angle bend at the bottom. When you’re happy with your hook and ready to attach it to the ornament, just put a small line (about 1/ 4 inch) on top of the container and press the hook into place.  If you’re ambitious, you can use a rotary drill to put a couple small holes in the top for the hook. However, I followed the advice of my crafty wife who thought it’d be much easier to use a hot glue gun instead.

Container Hook

Let the glue cool until it’s dry and then you’re done. Some containers have room to put something inside, so you could throw in a nice note.

Multiple Containers

If your coworkers don’t deal with many shipping containers, then consider a pallet ornament.

Christmas Pallet Ornament

The base of this ornament comes from the Uline Pallet Notes. We have quite a few of these since Uline often ships them to us for free, so I collected up the wooden parts from around the office. If you don’t use Uline for warehouse supplies, then you might be able to use popsicle sticks or other small pieces of wood. Having them pre-made is definitely the easiest option.

Next, you need a fun box to put on the pallet. I went to the dollar store and found a bunch of small boxes that were just the right size. Anything small could work though, even a round glass ornament would look good shrink wrapped to a pallet. I threw a round jingle bell inside my box so it sounds like a festive load when it moves.

Pallet Components

Using a glue gun, secure the lid to the box and then the box to the pallet. Gluing everything together isn’t required, but it will make wrapping much easier.

To wrap the pallet, actual pallet shrink-wrap works best, but I used simple home plastic wrap from my kitchen (I made sure to get permission from my wife first). Cut the wrap into 1-inch wide strips.

Shrink Wrap Strips

Then, with someone pulling tight on the other end, roll the ornament around from the base up and wrap it just like a real pallet. When you’re done, grab a hook and attach it to the top with a glue gun.

Wrapped Pallet with Hook

Finally, print out your pallet labels. You can either print small stickers or just tape on a cut piece of paper. Here’s the Word document I used to make the labels.Pallet Christmas Ornament

Sometimes it’s difficult to think of gifts for all of your coworkers, but I have really come to enjoy making and giving ornaments at Christmas. It’s a festive way to say “thanks” for all of their hard work, and it’s also a fun way to display your inner supply chain cowboy on your Christmas tree.

What types of gifts do you give to coworkers? What other types of supply chain ornaments could you make? What other creative ways do you have of thanking others in your supply chain during the holidays? Please leave your thoughts below.

Thoughts on the Standard Pig Game

Pete Abilla over at Shmula.com has put together an excellent 5-minute video exercise on standard work. The training teaches the “Standard Pig Game.” It asks you and your team to go through three different scenarios of drawing a pig. The first is with no standard, the second is with a written standard, and the third is with a visual standard. You can access the video here:

The Standard Pig Game Video at Shmula.comThe Standard Pig Game

Note: You will need to supply your email address to view the video, but when I entered mine, I only received one email asking if I would like to receive more information from Smula.com.

Thoughts on Visual Standards

I like this video because it makes a clear point, and it’s easy to share with my team. From this, I plan to work more on creating visual guides for standard work. Diagrams in the warehouse of how to package a product properly is an easy start, but what about the many processes in the office such as writing a purchase order or analyzing sell-through data?

In an effort to train on standard work, I have written scores of step-by-step procedures, similar to the one in round two of the game. However, when I refer others to learn the process from the document, they often soon return to me and ask that I walk them through the process. Essentially, what I have failed to hear is that they are asking me for a visual standard. Written procedures are just too confusing or overwhelming for most standard work. Small businesses especially are always working to document their processes, so this is an important rule to learn early in the creation of standard work manuals.

Recognizing that visuals are the key to standard work has given me a couple ideas. The written procedures that seem to work well have many graphics and screenshots in them. I now strive to add a visual for every step of instruction. (If you don’t take screenshots often, then here’s a great visual process of How to Take a Screenshot)

A great example of visual standards are the instructions for changing the toilet paper in our office’s bathrooms. The toilet paper dispensers in our building are actually quite difficult to figure out; you have to rip off the cardboard to change the roll. However, after posting the directions below, our problem of empty toilet paper rolls quickly resolved.

How to Change the Toilet Paper in the Restrooms

The next level of visual standards that I am striving for is creating how-to videos. When I want to learn how to do something new, I go straight to YouTube and look for a tutorial. I hope to build that same type of resource in my company so that employees can easily learn standard work on their own. Whether it’s a quick video taken with a cellphone or recording your screen as you walkthrough how to access information from a database, videos showing how to do something are gold compared with pages of text. I have yet to find a screen recorder that I absolutely love, but I’m evaluating a list of free screen recording programs for windows.

What can you do in your company to increase visuals for standard work? How can you create training resources that employees will actually use and apply? Share your thoughts below, including how your team liked the Standard Pig Game training.

Even Trash Bins Can Prevent Errors

Today, our supply chain team went to lunch at Dickey’s Barbecue to celebrate some recent wins. As I went to throw away my napkins, I was intrigued by the trash bin. The bin’s opening is too small for the plastic plates to fit through. No matter how many signs or reminders they could post about not throwing away your plate, nothing is as effective as making the tray impossible to fit in the bin.


Maybe I’m overanalyzing my lunch, but I began thinking about how many errors I could avoid in our company by “making the opening in the trash bin smaller.” I often underestimate the effectiveness of the simple lean tool poka-yoke (Japanese for error-proofing). Instead of improving a process until the right action happens, I usually get better long-term results when I improve a process so that the wrong action can’t happen.

What simple changes, like a smaller opening, can you implement to avoid errors and headaches?