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Silos or System

“Hey Charlie, where’s that kit for 105323? It’s due to ship tomorrow!” “We don’t have that funky component in yet. Sorry.” “Why didn’t you tell me?” (A loud argument ensues.)

Have you ever heard similar conversations? With supply-chain disruption as a new normal, in-house communications and shared knowledge is critical to ensure customer satisfaction despite supply challenges. Data analysis and its cousin, value-stream mapping, reveal how well each function communicates with the others. How is your internal communication? Does your operation resemble a system, or a collection of silos? In our opinion, silos are good for storing grain, from which to make bread, beer and other goodies. The ISO standards, with 9001:2015 in the lead, see an organization as a system of linked processes.

For instance: Purchasing, Receiving and Inventory are so thoroughly intertwined that we could view them as the same overall process of Materials Management or Supply Chain Management. (In a process audit, that’s exactly how we follow the chain of evidence.)

Stretching the concept further, we see Purchasing working hand-in-glove with Sales to anticipate plus respond to orders; Sales alerting both Purchasing and Production of customer trends that may affect demand; Purchasing informing Sales and Production of shortages or delays. On the far end, Inventory (receiving, client KANBAN, and inventory of subassemblies) communicates to Sales, Purchasing, and Planning to help Production deliver on schedule.

A good QMS views all these processes as a sequence; and a good process audit could follow a customer job all the way through from sales to post- delivery satisfaction feedback. As a test, ask new hires where process documents are unclear, confusing, or lacking communication instructions.

For thought: How well are your processes connected, communicated, and understood? Where would tighter connections or better communication, eliminate silos and increase efficiency? Improving these could dampen those fractious conversations, reduce blood pressure, and create the money for the bread/beer/goodies that come from the stuff in real silos!


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