Silicon Valley State of Mind, a blog by John Weathington, "The Science of Success"
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Silicon Valley State of Mind

Tips, thoughts, and advice based on the consulting work of John Weathington, "The Science of Success."

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Posted by on in Operational Excellence

I very rarely run out of shaving cream, because I think small. Here’s a good tip for making sure you don’t run out of necessary materials at the wrong time.

I was inspired by lean management principles when I came up with this idea. Time wasted waiting for materials is a common target with lean practitioners, and before long it really becomes an unconscious competence to watch for these things. I picked up on something when I ran out of shaving cream a while back—I didn’t have any notice. The can doesn’t tell you you’re about to run out, like the red markings on the side of receipt tape signals to the cashier that the tape needs to be changed. Instead, one day you press the button, and it just splatters—no shaving cream.

I order everything like this on Amazon, since I think it’s a horrible waste of time to drive down to a store when I can conveniently have it delivered to my house. The problem is, I need some lead time. Amazon’s usually fast, but we haven’t reached same-hour service yet, and me with a beard is not a good look.

Then it dawned on me—I have a spare in my travel kit! Problem solved. Another thing dawned on me—this is a great reserve technique that eliminates any downtime waiting for my shaving cream order to arrive from Amazon.

Now, whenever I order shaving cream, I order a normal size and a travel size. Once the normal size runs out, I start using the travel size and order another set. The travel size keeps me going until the new set arrives. Then I throw away the travel size, so they don’t keep accumulating. You may think it’s a waste to throw away perfectly good shaving cream, but you’d be falling into a common trap. The point of lean thinking is maximize efficiency, not reduce costs. You should feel comfortable throwing away the little amount of shaving cream left in the travel-sized canister. The insurance policy served its purpose.

So if your process always requires certain materials to function—think small. It’s better than walking around with a 5pm shadow.

Tagged in: inventory lean process
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