A commitment to continual improvement is one of Zeeland Lumber & Supply’s core values. We believe that the world is always changing and evolving and that continual improvement is necessary to embrace that change and find success for any company, in any industry.
With continual improvement at the heart of our company values, we’ve recently begun looking more into lean construction tactics that can provide our company with greater efficiencies and, in turn, greater value for our team members and customers.
What is Lean Construction?
Lean construction is a business methodology that focuses first and foremost on providing the customer with the very best value. Lean construction techniques focus on improving efficiency and eliminating waste, whether it be wasted time, or wasted inventory, from company operations in a way that will ultimately provide the customer with the best value and quality.
Lean construction fits well with Zeeland Lumber & Supply’s values of continuous improvement, and we’ve been working hard to implement lean construction initiatives that improve our teams experience and help offer better value to our customers. In case you’re interested in seeing how lean construction tactics work, here’s a quick look at how we started, and some of the tools we’re using now to continuously improve our operations:
Identify Our Value to Customers
Lean implementation is founded on the concept of delivering better value to the customer. That means we start by identifying the value of our company to our customers, and we look for ways to improve that value.
At Zeeland Lumber & Supply, we know that our clients who are professional home builders, contractors, renovators, and developers want quality products to fuel their builds and complete their designs. More than that, they need those building products fully complete, and in a time frame they can count on.
Since we have a clear picture of the value we provide our customers, and the value that our customers are looking for, we’re able to work to improve our company to increase that value.
Establishing a Lean Construction Mindset
The next step to providing better value to our customers is to truly embrace the concept of lean. In many ways, lean strategies contradict with the way we’re used to doing business. Lean construction avoids the idea of stockpiling goods and overproducing manufactured components and focuses instead on letting consumer demand drive inventory levels and production.
That means we work to listen to what our customers are saying. It’s always our goal to make each order fulfillment just a little bit faster and more efficient than the last, and we’re constantly looking at new manufacturers to ensure we’re supplying clients with the best, most in-demand brands for siding, decking, doors, windows, cabinets, and more.
We want our client’s needs to drive the decisions we make, and it’s a mindset we’re working closer to every day. At Zeeland Lumber & Supply, we’re striving to put continuous improvement at the heart of every action we make.
Implementing Lean Construction Tools for Continuous Improvement
To achieve our goal of lean, continuous improvement, we’ve been implementing many innovative tools to help us increase productivity, efficiency, and value for our clients.
Warehouse Inventory Management System
While warehouse inventory management systems have been in traditional retail stores for years, they’ve only recently begun to catch on in the construction industry. Zeeland Lumber & Supply invested in our first warehouse inventory management system back in 2013, to provide better, more effective service to our customers.
Our warehouse inventory management system shows us in real-time what we have in stock, sends orders immediately to the warehouse, and lets us push through urgent orders so our customers get exactly what they need when they need it. This system is one of many tools we’re using to improve our company’s efficiency and provide our customers with the exceptional service they deserve.
GPS Truck Tracking
Another tool we’ve implemented to help us move towards a truly lean operation is GPS tracking on all of our trucks. This technology allows us to measure truck turnaround time, along with other important metrics like driver behavior and safety.
With GPS tracking, we’re able to immediately deploy the truck closest to a client when they request a pickup or an urgent order, and we’re using the data we collect to optimize our delivery process. Every delivery we run is one more data set we can use to improve our deliveries to offer our clients the most reliable delivery service. For more info on how our GPS truck tracking offers you better service at a better value, check out this blog: Why We GPS Track Our Delivery Trucks.
Credit Pickup Policy
In the construction industry, we know that credit pickups are a major pain point. Too often, builders have to wait for weeks for unused material to be picked up and then credited back onto their account. That’s not profitable for the builder or the supplier. With lean construction in mind, we knew that credit pickups were a key issue to address when working to provide ultimate value for our customers.
We developed a five-day credit pickup process that helps us better manage our own books, but more importantly, gets that credit back to our customers as soon as possible. You can learn about the specifics of our credit pickup policy here, but putting that policy in place and working hard to hold ourselves accountable to that five-day goal has helped to reduce our credit pickup time. We benefit from a better, more accurate inventory of our own materials, and our clients benefit by getting the credit they need for their next job or project in as little as five days.
Continuous Improvement and Career-Long Learning
Perhaps the best part of applying lean strategy to our business development is the focus on continuous improvement and lifelong learning. In any business, construction or otherwise, there are always opportunities to improve. New technologies are discovered every day, and we embrace new ways to provide our customers with the best products and quality service possible.
At Zeeland Lumber & Supply, we’re dedicated to continual improvement, which is why we’re always open to suggestions and comments from our readers and our customers! We welcome your feedback, your opinions about new brands and building supplies we carry, and any suggestions for new topics you’d like us to discuss.
It’s our goal to be a partner and supporter of all of our customers, and we’d love to hear how we can better serve you. Feel free to reach out and send us your feedback online, or stop into one of our Midwest locations to talk to us in person.