Lean and Mean – Improving Sales and Distribution Performance
It is surprising that, even in this world of Internet marketing and online commerce, many businesses are operating at levels far below their potential. Reliant upon people rather than information and process, these businesses are weighted down by their legacy approach to getting things done. They throw money and personnel at the problem, adding more “fat” to the business and making sustainability just that much harder to achieve. The right approach, and the mantra of all manufacturers and distributors, should be to work “lean and mean”, applying technology and business principles which support agility and improved process efficiency.
The center of lean business is in operations, and includes all aspects of the “order” processing and support systems. From the point where an order is sought, to the point of order entry, and through to delivery and service – all aspects of the operation must be addressed for the business to achieve maximum success. Innovating in operational areas, such as in order management and distribution, can help the business rise above others in the market and create a significant competitive advantage.
What becomes challenging for many businesses is the fact that years of working in established “silos” often makes it difficult to introduce the cross-functionality necessary to support lean operations. It is not sufficient to simply suggest that the organization work collaboratively to streamline processes from order through to service and support. Work groups and team members must work together and adapt to delivering process improvements, following through with the actions necessary to turn the philosophy into bottom line results. Good support is required to keep customers, and a good product is necessary to support increased sales. No aspect of the operation stands alone, so each is necessary to participate in making end-to-end improvement. Additionally, back-office processes must be aligned to work collaboratively where required, supporting efficient operations rather than creating unnecessary bottlenecks or delays.
The key to developing a lean and mean, high performance operation is applying the technology and principles which translate into improved profitability and customer retention. In many cases, the same solutions which create customer “self-help” capabilities are also solutions which can address similar needs for internal business users. Ultimately, the goals are elimination of redundant or error-prone processes, establishing the sharing and secure collaboration of information throughout the organization, implementing integrated systems which allow users to efficiently perform their particular tasks, and working cooperatively with others in the supply chain to maximize the real-time capability and efficiency.
Rather than continuing to utilize basic record keeping solutions, or accounting products which aren’t prepared to address the specific operational aspects of the business, owners and managers should be looking to the tools and solutions which will help them develop the framework to support improving operational performance, turning people knowledge into sustainable business profitability.
Accountants and Small Manufacturers: Getting in Front of the Ball
There’s a lot more to accountability in a manufacturing or inventory-based business than simply keeping track of money in and money out. Particularly in an economy when nobody can afford to build or stock products too far ahead of demand, it is essential that these businesses have a means to not only track and manage purchasing, manufacturing, distribution and stocking activities, but to understand conditions or trends which impact the flow of materials and cash through the business. Read more…