From the Archives of a Common Sensei – Volume 7, Supply Cycle Analysis

If you find your organization is having trouble in meeting output requirements (customer needs), I suggest you start with those customer needs and work your way back through what is considered important in how you warehouse, how you flow materials, how you develop your suppliers, and how your ordering systems are structured to meet ALL those needs.

While working with a well-known medical device company, I was faced with a somewhat disconnected Plant Manager who was not sure what his part was during the transformation the corporate leadership was trying to pursue. He was fully on board with making changes but only knew improvement was necessary. I will never forget his words when he said: “don’t tell me what you think I want to hear, tell me what I need to hear!” That was my key to open a new world for this Executive by saying back to him: “Okay, let’s take a walk and compare what YOUR eyes see vs. what MY eyes see in your operations!” My eyes were focused on the various elements of non-essential work in ordering systems, supplier development, warehousing, material flow including inventory, repairs (overall quality), system inputs, people frustrations, communications, etc. The Plant Manager was seeing that people were busy, and product was moving. There was a major difference between what we each saw during that plant operation tour. A thought came to me that a former professor used to say: “If you can’t see it, it likely doesn’t exist!” Being able to comprehend what is seen is generally dependent on the individuals training and observation capabilities, including wanting to see common sense issues.

These slides can help you determine at a high level whether you are dealing with a “Troubled, Stable, or World Class” organization with regards to your supply cycle. Consider it a starting point prior to doing a deep dive “end-to-end process map” or a detailed analysis. Perhaps this effort will help you better understand where you want to place your emphasis while making the journey to excellence. The intent here is not to do the in depth organizational or process analysis explained in prior volumes of The Archives of a Common Sensei, rather these example graphics are to assist you get started on your improvement journey.

Questions to be answered:
Are your ordering systems Batch & Queue with no or informal systems? Are your systems-controlled batch & queue? Are your systems “One Piece Flow”?

The same questions apply for Supplier Development, Warehousing, and Material Flow (see graphics). Once you have answered these questions, go back, and review the previous volumes of The Archives of the Common Sensei and give the analysis methods a try! We can get into improvement ideas in future archive discussions.

Max Allway

For More Information or help with your transformation effort, contact us at


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