By Kevin Meyer
No I'm not talking about the plethora of silly lean certifications – regular readers know that I believe only one, the AME/SME/Shingo Prize certification, to be even marginally worthwhile with real standards. Nor am I talking about the silly colored belts or hats or whatever. I guess I have a striped fuchsia belt in cynicism. If folks spent half as much time working on improving processes as they spent admiring their certificates on the wall they might actually create competitive organizations.
Nope, this time I'm talking about the complete waste of time foisted upon us by supply chain managers completely inept in the understanding of risk whenever there's some global calamity. It happened back with the avian flu epidemic and it happened when some swines also caught some flu.
And now, once again, it has happened in response to the earthquake in Japan. You guessed it, the "thou shalt certify that thy supply chain is free of radiation contamination" letter. Usually accompanied by some pathetic statement claiming they sympathize with the victims and wish to protect their valued customers – by increasing the cost of their suppliers with some useless paperwork exercise.
So the barrage of letters comes to the first level of suppliers – then what? Some blindly sign them, probably knowing they are ridiculous but not wanting to upset the apple cart with their customers – especially in this economy. Some will ignore the letter and hope their suppliers won't notice. Many will further exponentially propagate the waste by sending out their own letter to their own suppliers. Reminds me of a chain letter. God forbid the chain breaks…
And some will actually put an iota of thought into the matter and realize they don't have a high sensitivity radiation detectors, and that their suppliers are probably even less likely to, and craft some sort of reply to their customers.
It all takes time, it all adds cost, it is all waste. Bill discussed the basics of supply chain risk the other day – perhaps we should just print out his post and attach it to a pre-printed yellow Post-It that says "please don't bother us with this crap unless you want us to raise your price."
These same companies that are supposedly concerned about the potential for undetectable radiation seem oblivious to the fact that one of their major suppliers is within Hezbollah rocket range in Israel, on the coast of California on top of a fault and within reach of a moderate tsunami, in the middle of a drug lord crossfire in Mexico, next to a rail line carrying hazardous materials over decaying tracks in New Jersey, and the key technical staff has a habit of flying to conferences all on the same plane… well you get the picture.
Stuff happens. We mitigate where we can, sometimes – especially if we think like Bill – we do a pretty good job. Signing your ridiculous letter does nothing except further raise your cost.