Going lean clearly has benefits: reducing waste, minimizing unsold merchandise and unnecessary worker hours and more. But slimming down a supply chain can be as challenging as slimming down your body in time for beach season. And while ‘no pain, no gain’ may be a nice thing for a trainer to stress, getting a lean supply chain should be pain-free.

Three key considerations can help you to get lean with your supply chain:

#1 All Aboard

Building a lean supply chain isn’t a simple top-down process. Everybody has to be involved, especially the front-line workers that order supplies and fulfill customer orders. That’s why you have to talk with your teams at the warehouse and in transportation. Let them understand the moves and ask for their suggestions on processes. Not only will you get a better sense of how to make your supply chain leaner, you’ll also learn about other operational problems in other areas, with solutions straight from the trenches. You’ll be surprised by co-workers who wish to contribute to the process of implementing a better system.

#2 Track Customer Demand

Obviously, your frontline employees will be able to tell you a lot about what’s moving and what isn’t. But you need to augment that anecdotal data with hard sales data that lets you know what customers want the most, and how often they want it. That will help you stock accordingly to have the fast-moving products on hand or within easy reach, while reducing or eliminating the slow-moving or no-moving products.

#3 Get Set Up

Before you kick off the leaning process, you need to gather data from employees and customer purchases so that you can incorporate data-driven analytics into a workable plan that can be fine-tuned as you go. Some of the key steps in setting up involve:

  • Value stream mapping: This process will outline the flow of how your product moves down the line for final delivery. You will need to look at your current process and then forecast the flow when you go lean and remove products that don’t perform.
  • Develop systems thinking: Apply this tactic to see how your supply chain system works and how one element affects another. You’re drilling down to an extent but you’re also stepping back to get a holistic, big-picture view of your processes.
  • Use performance metrics: Set certain goals with sales and system efficiencies based on your current system so that it can be incorporated into your lean objectives and you can measure its effects and ensure that you’re getting exactly what you want out of the supply chain

Plan for demand: With the right software tools, you can track trends to predict when demand will spike for certain products over time. This way, you’ll have increased inventory of certain products on hand when that demand goes up—rather than having to catch up when it hits.