Friday, 12 April 2013

The supply chain behind might be a bit of a mess

3.4m Toyota, Honda and Nissan cars have been recalled as a result of human error in the supply chain: "[a] worker forgot to turn the switch for a system that weeded out defective product parts" and improper storage of parts. Seems an amazing coincidence that last week I blogged on avoiding mistakes in procurement through using checklists - a checklist could have avoided the failure and a loss of reputation and potential profits.

Of course this isn't the first time we have discussed Toyota's supply chain woes and my heart goes out to all those buyers who must been accessing their personal procurement risk management. One recall is is understandable but this is becoming a habit - I suppose it means you get your car washed for free.

But then is it fair to point the finger at the automotive industry - is this not just just another version of the horsemeat supply chain problems which even this week refuse to gallop of into the sunset. In spite of unsuccessful  ministerial efforts to off-shore the blame and say there was no risk to health we may now have a health risk.

Nevertheless, pause, take a step back and recall that the rail franchise disaster also appeared to be based on human error in the evaluation formulae.

Then reflect on the PASC evidence that the adoption of 'lean' (which had its origins in Toyota) will be the panacea to all central government public procurement woes. Personally, I'm a great believer in Lean, indeed its application in public procurement was the focus of my MSc, but lean will not solve public procurement's core problems which appear to be much more related to culture and resistance to change.

Regardless of the sector, perhaps the real human error lies in trying to believe that systems work in absence of people and not recognising mistakes happen, therefore you need to put in place a comprehensive procurement risk management system. The car manufactures do not appear to have had the risk profile and impact right for the airbag issue.

Lean, for all it's benefits doesn't remove risk - ask the guy in front if he happens to be driving a Toyota, Honda or Nissan.

P.S. 12 April 2013 it has now become clear that Toyota have joined an automotive industry risk community with a strategic approach to risk management - the question remains though whether the proposed approach is too strategic to have identified the airbag risk? 

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