If the people working in America’s factories had to live up to the same standards as journalists, there would be no more newspapers for the simple fact that there would not be a single operable printing press in America; nor would there be a single automobile that would start up; we would all walk around naked because the seams on our clothes would come apart at first wear; and we would be very, very hungry.
If one of your employees presented you with a supply chain study of the caliber printed in Knight-Ridder newspapers across the land on military purchasing, you would fire them on the spot – no severance pay, no time to clean out their desk – you would just take them by the scruff of the neck and hurl them out into the parking lot.
These products of America’s fine journalism schools – a Ms. Lauren Markoe and Mr. Seth Borenstein – wasted an inexcusable amount of perfectly good ink demonstrating just how pathetic journalism is these days. The story, "Pentagon Program Costing Taxpayers Millions In Inflated Prices", concludes that supply chain strategies that reduce the number of vendor, tiering smaller or less capable suppliers under the larger ones, bundling product and service packages, and so forth is an utter waste of money.
These two keen, analytical minds sneer "It’s the equivalent of shopping for weekly groceries at a convenience store." To arrive at this conclusion, they took a sample of a little less than .0001% of military spending under the program over the past several years, found some prices through the Tier 1’s that were higher than the prices offered directly by the Tier 2 and 3 guys and there you have it. They saw no need to look at inventories or associated handling costs, lead time or cycle time analysis, the administrative costs, or much of anything else. All of that entailed a little too much work, I guess. No, all they needed was a quote or two from a disgruntled supplier who got whacked down to Tier 2 and cannot sell directly to the military and they had their sad story. Of course, they easily found a liberal Democrat Congressman to agree that supplier consolidation strategies are wasteful, as well.
While their sample size was so small as to render the data meaningless, they had no input from competent supply chain experts, and they ignored most of the economics of what is at heart an economic issue, they should be given full credit for using proper grammar and writing in complete sentences. There were no dangling prepositions that I saw. So the article was not completely without merit.
In fact, lean manufacturing can be accurately described as "the equivalent of shopping for weekly groceries at a convenience store" and then hammering that convenience store relentlessly to continuously improve prices and service. Markoe and Borenstein could not see lean principles and practices when they were staring them right in the face. Their first clue should have been the quotes buried deep in the story in which the customers of the military procurement strategy said they love the selection and service they get from the Tier 1’s. Also near the end, the article acknowledges that this is being done throughout the private sector. This should have been another clue. The private sector tends to frown on wasting money on a grand scale and does not usually pursue strategies that result in such squandering, so perhaps there was something to it that Markoe and Borenstein were missing.
Ms. Markoe’s qualifications for slamming lean supply chain thinking is a little hard to discern. She seems to have devoted the bulk of her journalistic efforts to getting at all the facts involved in Strom Thurmond’s illegitimate daughter, and pointing out that racism still exists in some parts of the South. I guess her primary qualification for belittling the Pentagon’s lean efforts on the front page of the paper is that she really, really, really cares about stuff. Mr. Borenstein is the Knight-Ridder reporter on NASA and the environment. Since NASA uses a lot of numbers and this study has a lot of numbers, well, he is an expert. Oh, and he really, really, really cares about whales and other stuff, too.
In fact, the military has been doing a great job in the lean area, They are such a bureaucratic behemoth, the effort is akin to turning battleship around in a river, but they are getting there. I compare the intellectual lightweights at Knight-Ridder to a fellow by the name of Mark Roberts, with whom I have corresponded over the last few weeks. Mark works at Camp Victory South, CENTCOM, Operation Iraqi Freedom – yeah, Baghdad – and is in charge of lean implementation efforts in the document management area. You got it. Right there in the middle of the War the Army is implementing lean. He tracked me down in his relentless pursuit of information.
I have no idea how many newspapers put this ridiculous criticism of the military and lean principles on their front page – dozens, I am sure. My support remains with the Pentagon. Their leadership of change and developing American manufacturing and logistical capabilities has been instrumental in making this country what it is. Ironically, one result of the Pentagon’s track record of preserving our liberty is that they have also preserved the opportunity for imbeciles to get jobs working for newspapers.
The downside of Freedom of the Press is that people whose defining personal traits are (1) arrogance; (2) ignorance, and (3) a decidedly liberal bias too often get their hands on printing presses. To paraphrase P.J. O’Rourke, giving ink to ignorant liberals is like giving whiskey and car keys to teenage boys.