Maintaining a Lean Operation: The Just in Time Method
How about a quick history lesson? Back in the 1950s, Toyota introduced the Just-in-Time (JIT), or lean, method. This meant creating or purchasing only enough items to meet demand instead of to build a surplus. Gradually the idea of slimming down operations began to spread to other companies. Dell is a modern day example of this. The tech giant adopted a lean business model of its own and kept only a few hours’ worth of supplies on hand at any time. This ended the long-time tech industry struggle of excess inventory and pre-ordered parts that became obsolete before they even reached the market.
Although JIT was conceived for manufacturing operations, at Arraya Solutions we saw an opportunity to take that innovative mentality and apply it to the services we provide. Instead of having a surplus of backed inventory or canned solutions, we had a different objective in mind.
As Dan Lifshutz, my business partner and Arraya’s CEO, has said: “The future isn’t foreseeable. The fluid nature of today’s marketplaces, with the increasing rise of globalization and technology, makes it even more unpredictable. We want to be ready to deliver our customers’ requests the moment they need them. That’s what sets Arraya apart.”
We knew that a crucial part of succeeding with a JIT methodology – especially in the rapidly changing business environment of today – was transparency, and that’s something Arraya has always valued, with our clients and with our employees.
Internally, I aim to be sure everything happening in our company is clear to employees at every level. We have conference calls and weekly updates with staff so everyone knows what their top priorities, or “must-win battles” are. Plus, leaders listen to employees whenever they bring feedback or improvement ideas and try to act on that feedback if they can. I believe this motivates employees to always look for new ways to make their own processes more efficient. It’s one thing to know what’s going on with your company, but it’s even more encouraging to know you can also have a hand in it.
Likewise, we wanted to ensure transparency with our customers so we could better understand what they needed. One of the ways we’ve done this is by establishing an open channel of communication between us and our customers which we call our Customer Advisory Board (CAB). This consists of 14 strategically-chosen customers that we meet with regularly as a group to talk about problems they’re having, changes they’d like to make, and what we’re doing at Arraya to assist them with meeting their goals. These meetings have shaped our JIT efforts by giving us a way to stay on the same page with our customers.
Another key element of lean is a flexible, multi-skilled workforce. Of course, building that workforce starts with the hiring process. We don’t hire one person to do just one thing. We consider all of the ways a potential hire’s numerous skills could be leveraged to make us a better, stronger company.
Utilizing social tools like Yammer and Jabber which promote collaboration through group discussion boards has gotten those multitalented new hires on-boarded, trained, integrated, and adding value quicker. Our existing staffers have utilized these tools to interact with each other and share their knowledge more often, making our workforce even more flexible. As a result, we’re able to offer our customers more comprehensive, customized solutions faster.
Our relationships with industry-leading technology providers also make our JIT strategy possible. They enable frequent, quick, reliable, and high quality shipments. Without any of that, our customers could be left hanging.
JIT has thrived at Arraya because of our resiliency. We’ve set up our organization with multi-skilled workers, embraced relationships with industry leading providers, and put the tools in place for fast-paced collaboration. Part of the reason we’ve been able to stay ahead in this highly competitive market is because we can provide cost-saving, highly customizable, relevant solutions to today’s most critical business needs.