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Industrial Engineer Engineering and Management Solutions at Work

July 2014    |    Volume: 46    |    Number: 7

The member magazine of the Institute of Industrial Engineers

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The potential of supply chain segmentation

I had formed a reaction to “Parting the Ways for Supply Chain Excellence” (May) after the first page: Segmenting supply chains by characteristics of the product, customer or other would be a worthy extension of lean’s value-stream concept.

Such segmentation, I thought, should not be all that difficult to implement because it already exists widely within factories: Cells, plants-in-a-plant and focused factories are production flows segmented by product family, customer family or occasionally both at the same time. In many cases up-and-running flow streams in factories may fit well with targeted segmentation of supply and distribution channels.

What is additionally gratifying about such grand segmentation is its potential to fulfill the failed promise of lean value streams, which originally were to extend “from raw material into the arms of the customer,” as envisioned by Mike Rother and John Shook in their 1990 book Learning to See.

For the most part they don’t, but with Tompkins International and the supply chain community pressing for segmentation of the external channels, they could.

Richard J. Schonberger
Independent researcher/author/speaker
Bellevue, Wash.

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