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Lean, Green and Risk-Free

There’s an interesting article in this morning’s French economic newspaper “Les Echos”. Basically, the author is asking the question on whether last week’s air traffic standstill due to the Icelandic volcano eruption is a sign that the transport boom is over, in the same way as the property, internet and financial good time have all come to an end at some time in the recent past.

He points out that the increased accessibility and reduced cost of transport over the years, from both a business and leisure viewpoint, has increased our dependance so much that we now cannot live without it. Companies have gone overseas to find cheap alternative sources of supply, the benefits outweighing the increased cost of the supply chain. And the increased demand has generated economies of scale, which have made the services that more accessible, etc… One big vicious circle.

‘Lean Management’ gets a mention, rare for this paper, in the context that an obsession with reducing the non value-adding costs of these extended supply chain has resulted in decreased stock levels. In some cases, the only stocks can be those currently being shipped in the transport system. And when the transport system in question breaks down, there is potentially chaos.

So have we gone too far? I can’t say that I heard too many complaints from businesses faced with production lines shutting down due to the non-availability of parts. Most of the anguish came from individuals and holidaymakers. Maybe the downtime of five or six days was not sufficient to make an impact. However, would it be the same outcome if, as has happened in the past, the French lorry drivers block all roads for a couple of weeks, or a worldwide fuel crisis nails the planes to the ground?

Food for thought indeed, especially for those pushing for more insourcing and home-grown products. Being Lean is a great objective – being Lean, Green and Risk-Free, even we pay a little more, is maybe a better compromise.

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