By Carl Purvis, Vlier Business Unit Manager
It’s no secret the supply chain has been deeply impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic and its lingering aftereffects. From workers falling ill to governments issuing restrictions, the ongoing concerns are driven by a multitude of outside factors. At the height of the pandemic, transportation was essentially locked down and lead times doubled or even tripled in some cases. Amid these mounting supply chain struggles, we were able to continue providing for our customers at superior rates. The secret to our success? A commitment to creative thinking and advanced planning.
Implementing a Creative Strategy
In early 2021, as the pandemic progressed and it became clear that the impact on the supply chain would continue, our team decided to invest in additional inventory, which contradicts one of the primary lean-manufacturing ideals of our industry. We increased our raw material inventory budget by 20% by reallocating it from other budget buckets such as travel, which was deemed unnecessary due to ongoing pandemic restrictions.
To improve the accuracy of our output, we implemented new process controls and a safety requirement specification (SRS), which tracked the success of each of our workstations in real time. Our team was able to catch and immediately prevent errors, lowering our scrap rate substantially. These successes decreased our raw material demand while increasing first-pass yield as well as the level of employee engagement throughout our value chain.
The Forecasting Model
As part of our strategy, we implemented a forecasting model that benefited not just us, but also our suppliers. To create this model, we assessed the three-year average sales for 80% of our parts, which allowed us to discover several common denominators. For instance, a single component could be included in half a dozen separate orders. Through the forecast we are able to build production cells around the automation of these products, reducing our dependence on direct labor while increasing on-time delivery.
Many of our vendors can also see the forecast for what we are expected to consume and can subsequently set up their supply lines with efficiencies in mind. This leads to savings in logistics, allowing these vendors to look ahead and decrease the number of times they will have to ship.
Reaping the Benefits
In order to succeed, we knew we had to welcome diverse perspectives and a wide range of opinions. This was highlighted by the importance we placed on our vendor partnerships to achieve mutual growth and success. We cultivated our professional relationships by sharing solutions, such as connecting our vendors with new sources of raw materials—knowing they would do the same for us in the spirit of mutual assistance. The increased collaboration provided us with otherwise unrealized benefits within our facility, enabling us to succeed while many of our competitors struggled.
We’re proud that our actions directly led to these mutually positive results, allowing us to consistently satisfy our customers’ needs and grow our partnerships in the process. We’re also proud to be a company that manufactures in America—we source and assemble the vast majority of our products in the United States.
This is the type of creative problem-solving you can expect when you partner with Vlier. Contact us today to learn more about our capabilities and the ways we can help you overcome your challenges.