After a large company’s internal lean enterprise has been established, the exogenous elements of the lean enterprise need to be developed. Suppliers and development partners must be included. Therein lays a problem. While it is difficult enough to plan and execute a lean transformation within the company, it is much more difficult to bring suppliers into the “lean enterprise”. The process involves first creating a value stream map of the supply chain and looking for key suppliers that need to be “incorporated” into the lean enterprise.
Next comes establishing a real or metaphorical strategic partnership with the supplier.
This is completely contrary to the “arm’s length” relationship many large companies have with its suppliers. It is critical that the suppliers understand, and commit to a lean transformation. This is often attempted through education or coercion. While internal “lean transformation” is difficult, the incorporation of external supply chain partners is even more troublesome. Internal transformation of a company may be guided by that company’s lean vision, and is facilitated by tools like the Lean Enterprise Self Assessment Tool (LESAT), and Lean Roadmaps. External transformation of suppliers requires that the lean company strategically partner with its suppliers and essentially “teach them” how to become lean.