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lean inventory

Why It’s Never Been More Important to be Lean than During/Post COVID

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COVID-19 has taught us in business quite a bit about agility, emergency preparedness, and the importance of processes. We have learned what matters, how to make shifts in the face of restrictive ordinances, and decision-making under extreme pressure. 

We’ve seen businesses close as they couldn’t manage change, while others thrived. Never before has being efficient been so relevant, and necessary. Those who grew during this time may now be facing a decrease and are planning to adjust once again. As restrictions are lifted, others may be looking at adapting to a new normal. Processes and change management have become a focus. 

For me, these have always been a primary objective. What do processes look like, what are they producing, and how can we improve efficiency? 

Lean Operations for Emergencies 

Emergency situations often reveal the holes in our processes. This is often why organizations, such as schools, run mock drills to test their effectiveness. Those regular drills help teachers prepare for fires, storms, and other dangers. 

Similarly, I look at processes so that when emergencies happen, we know where the holes are. The additional benefit is that when there isn’t an emergency, processes run smoother and more efficiently. 

Understanding processes and closing efficiency gaps allows management to make better decisions under pressure. They also are more agile because they understand the full workflow and can anticipate the waterfall effect of problems at any point of the flow. 

Lean Inventory During Shortages/ Delays 

Inventory should be an asset, not a waste of money. Managing appropriate levels of inventory and having a grasp on supply chain is key. How did this last year impact production in regards to inventory? Did it run smoothly, or did it stall? Did product design or workflows change in response? Did deadlines and shipping meet expectations? 

Visual inventory management, min/max ordering and other tools can be implemented to support the best possible outcomes to maximize floor space and reduce cold inventory. Understanding and preparing for inventory issues ultimately impacts profitability. 

Supply chain interruptions were incredibly disruptive during COVID and taught us a bit more about how to be prepared and shift when we can’t get standard supplies. 

Lean Staffing in the Midst of Change 

In the face of COVID, some employees are anxiously looking to return to positions. Others, like teachers and waitstaff, may chose other career paths, possibly permanently. Until we are back to a full reopening, it’s hard to know what staffing demands will look like. 

HR managers will have their hands full managing this changing dynamic and the secret to success is found in the process. Not only will managing the paperwork and policy management be critical, but training staff to get them fully productive will be important. 

The better the processes, the less important the employee’s beginning skill set is. Hiring the right people and teaching them the required skills will be a key in rebuilding staff as the country reopens.

A Little Reflection 

How did your processes hold up this last year? Did it reveal some holes that could use patching? Are you preparing for the new normal to come? Do you need support in building processes to support the coming changes? How can I help? 


PBEX, LLC is a lean consulting firm specializing in uncovering the holes in organizational processes that result in loss of any kind. We start with a complete review and analysis of the business processes that create efficiency and profitability, and the barriers to them. Contact us today to learn more and to schedule your review with a lean consultant.   


Inventory Management: Jumping Over Dollars For Dimes

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Photo by Bob Ghost on Unsplash

A few years ago, I encountered a business owner who had recently acquired a company that was going out of business after 15 years. Part of the purchase included materials, some of which were also 15 years old. This acquisition also meant merging the owner’s two companies, each with their own property, into one larger space. 

The owner planned the build out on the new, bigger property, but he was so anxious to turn the abundance of new raw materials into product, he became blind to other areas that needed attention. 

“This happens a lot in life – we get so focused on something, we neglect others. In business, this often looks like jumping over dollars for dimes.” 

Space was made to house significant inventory, which reduced space for other areas, such as production and offices. However, when we looked at the inventory, we found most of it wasn’t useable, and could be sold, trashed or recycled. Doing this freed up significant space that allowed for significantly more floor space, allowing for greater future expansion. We used lean inventory management tools to help us determine what really was needed and usable and what was waste.

Lean Inventory Management

We can’t get blindsided by the desire to make money at the cost of the team that helps us create it. We can’t be so eager for dimes that we jump over dollars to get to them. Instead, we should be looking at everything in our businesses as: Does it make money or cost money? 

The goal of lean inventory management is to eliminate or reduce things that cost money and increase those which make it. Sometimes that is really clear – like eliminating dead inventory. Other times, it’s harder to see, like investing in sufficient office space for workers. Either way, an outside observer can see these blind spots and help navigate effective and efficient change, reducing long-term costs. 

My role as a Lean consultant includes not only seeing the blind spots, but also seeking understanding to the systems of the business to discover and close gaps. Not only do I look for these inefficiencies, I lead management with tools that help them with continuous improvement so they can find and solve issues as they come up – or even before they come up. 

My objective eye prevents businesses from jumping over dollars for dimes, and when cash flow matters, that’s an important perspective to have. If you are struggling with inventory management and want to get lean, PBEX, LLC provides a complete review and analysis of the business processes that create efficiency and profitability, and the barriers to them. Providing consulting and lean process improvement training, we are ready to support your organizational goals. Contact us today to learn more about lean business management and to schedule your review with a lean consultant.