Specialty Fabrics Review March 2021 - 26

One aspect I see that
is sure to impact our
future business is our
ability to pivot and
adjust as the world
around us changes.
ALEX KOUZMANOFF
AZTEC TENTS

Fredericks, CEO, while the company's
fulfillment centers remained open
with increased safety protocols. Like
Cooley, TVF serves a varied customer
base. Although some markets were
" severely impacted, " others thrived by
moving to produce PPE and related
items, making it important for TVF
to continue operating. Although
the transition to remote work was
initially " clunky, " says Fredericks,
it did have some upsides. " In some
cases we found ourselves having more
facetime with customers than in the
past, which was a positive surprise, " he
says. " The same can be said internally.
We really made an effort to [create]

opportunities for our team to virtually
connect and collaborate. It's certainly
not the same but in some cases we saw
our team connect and collaborate in
a more meaningful way virtually than
when we were all in the office. "
BUSINESS AS USUAL?
Some events change everything. At
IFAI Virtual Expo 2020 in November,
one session speaker remarked that
9-11 forever changed how our society
looks at security, the 2008 economic
collapse forever changed how we
look at finances, and the COVID-19
pandemic will likely forever change
how we look at hygiene. It will also

Put to the test: Lean manufacturing
How did lean manufacturing principles fare during the pandemic? Review spoke
to Mark Reich, senior coach at the Lean Enterprise Institute (LEI).
EDITOR'S NOTE

Mark Reich is a senior coach at the
Lean Enterprise Institute (LEI), a
Boston-based nonprofit that helps
companies improve through lean
thinking and practices, eliminating
waste-creating activities and
delivering high value for customers,
using the fewest possible
resources. Before joining LEI, Reich
spent 23 years at Toyota Japan
and North America, most recently
as general manager of the Toyota
Production System Support Center.
During his time as general manager,
Reich directly implemented the
Toyota Production System (TPS)
or managed its implementation in
various industries.

Q: Lean manufacturing principles are built on the concept of smooth, stable
product demand and supply chains free of significant disruptions, correct?
A: Lean management does rely on stable and smooth demand to be most successful.
When demand is unstable and uneven, the concept of heijunka, or leveling, helps us smooth
production. Let's say you can make 500 products a day. But you get an order for 700 one
day, 1,000 another day, then 200 and 300 other days, etc., but your average demand is 500.
Heijunka says to hold just enough inventory to be able to cover fluctuations. What happens
in these cycles is that orders total, say, 700 one day and the next fall back to 300. So, you
still make 500 but you put 200 in inventory to cover the next fluctuation. You don't do that
arbitrarily. Over time, you must study what the real average demand is to know the minimum
number of items to hold in inventory.
You hold two kinds of inventory. Buffer stock covers fluctuations from outside customers.
Safety stock covers issues inside your facility such as a piece of equipment that can't produce
[for some reason] or you run out of material because a supplier didn't deliver.
The benefit of leveling is that you don't have to change your production pace or the number
of team members. Lean makes the choice that we will try very hard to avoid managing
fluctuations with labor modifications in hiring, laying off people or moving people between
production lines, etc. Instead, we'll manage inventory to meet demand fluctuations as our first
step before disrupting the workforce.

24 SPECIALTY FABRICS REVIEW / March 2021



Specialty Fabrics Review March 2021

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