This week I’m at LeanFAB, a Charlotte, N.C., lean manufacturing conference organized by the Fabricators & Manufacturers Association. When I pulled into the hotel parking lot this evening, I noticed a truck hauling equipment with a familiar logo: Vermeer, a Pella, Iowa, construction equipment manufacturer The FABRICATOR covered several years ago. The company’s CEO, Mary Andringa Vermeer, is chair of the board of the National Association of Manufacturers and for years has been a vocal lean champion.
Tomorrow’s agenda at LeanFAB includes a plant tour of a local metal service center as well as several sessions on lean manufacturing’s effect on supplier relationships. Managing those supplier relationships, some manufacturing managers seem to be putting quick delivery before price. As just one example, Lynn Benishek, materials manager at Milwaukee, Wis.-based Phoenix Products, told me the company rates suppliers on quality first, delivery second, and price third. If a supplier offers Benishek a quantity discount, she usually doesn’t take it unless she knows Phoenix can use that excess inventory immediately. Instead, Benishek prefers to use (when possible) local suppliers that can deliver quality products in small quantities at a moment’s notice.