So what does this have to do with lean? Quite a bit, actually.
First, as manufacturers and producers increasingly find themselves required to make a higher mix of low-volume products, they must adapt their methods so the per-unit cost of production is no greater for a low-volume product than for one made in high volumes. (That was the theme of an earlier posting on Lean Strategies in a Low-Volume World.) This requires the kind of waste elimination and continuous improvement that a lean strategy provides.
(It may also require a shift in thinking about lean, which some people mistakenly think only works in high-volume environments.)
Second, the Internet buyers of low-volume products are typically dispersed across broad geographic areas, or even across the globe, a distribution reality that requires a super-efficient supply chain. Here, too, you need commitment to a lean strategy to achieve that efficiency.
Third, one of the great benefits of lean is that frees up production capacity. But that doesn’t necessarily mean capacity to produce greater volume of your existing products. It can also mean capacity to produce new products – which is what you need in the world of the Long Tail.
I could go on, but I think you see my point.
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