I Hate Cardboard

In the summer of 2005, the primary supplier of cardboard to a producer of plastic moldings for flat panel televisions introduced himself to me. The molding operation carefully packaged plastic components for Sony, Mitsubishi, and other producers of flat panel televisions. Some of the products were also packaged for automotive suppliers for critical plastic parts. Packaging specifications were very thorough even to the extent the company employed a full time packaging engineer to cater to a variety of customers and their specifications. So, this was not your normal cardboard. Sony, Mitsubishi, and others were real picky about packaging.


We were in the process of developing a robust Supplier Kanban process with several suppliers. Shortly after meeting the cardboard supplier, I was asked, "why does your boss hate cardboard?" The supplier added that when he met my boss, Louis Gasperut, the first words uttered by Louis were, "I hate cardboard."


Cardboard tends to slither all over the place once the bundle's binding is cut. If the cardboard stack is high and only one piece of cardboard is withdrawn, the more it slithers. It does not take long for a neatly stacked bundle of cardboard to transform into an eyesore. If the dock doors are open on a day with strong winds, the cardboard slithers around even more. If the wind is really strong, cardboard pieces fly and land at random places in the shop.


So, one can argue with some success that hating cardboard has merit. This top-down hatred of cardboard led to improvements in bundle sizes, material handling techniques, and other aspects relating to robust Supplier Kanban practices.


A few months prior to the meeting with the cardboard supplier, Louis Gasperut directed a major 5S shop cleanup. That direction included the cardboard storage areas. But no matter how well it was cleaned up, the cardboard continued with its slithering and flighty behavior.


Continuing with this frustration, Louis directed the implementation of Supplier Kanban with all cardboard suppliers. This resulted in smaller bundle sizes of cardboard. It formalized stock rotation using sunk cost. In other words, no one endured the non-value adding tasks of physically rotating stock. The picking order and stock place management was designed to ensure proper stock rotation on an on-going basis. All movements of material and human were singular to each task. There was no extra material handling, clean up, or stock rotation.


About the same time we were developing robust Supplier Kanban, we were also developing a state-of-the-art robotic paint system. The paint system included all the bells and whistles of the latest technology. It cost millions. Its construction was appropriately scheduled to showcase to existing and potential customers how technologically advanced we were.


This indeed attracted new customers. Interestingly, Toshiba awarded us new business as a result of the technologically impressive painting operations. However, we were pleasantly surprised when Toshiba stated our kanban of cardboard was even more impressive than the fancy paint operations.


Although we kept this secret, the cost of the Supplier Kanban for the cardboard commodity was less than $200. That is not a bad R.O.I. when considering the volume of business awarded from Toshiba.


Louis Gasperut directed several more Supplier Kanban applications for several other commodities, such as fabric rolls, resin, colorant, paint, and several others which led to a tremendous improvements in cash flow from the reductions in inventory. Furthermore, those practices led to a sunk cost application of 5S in several areas of the shop. It was self policing, as a function of the Kanban practices.


Cardboard was no longer an eyesore and actually transformed into an object of appeal; at least in the eyes of Toshiba personnel. Also, the pride of the workers under Mr. Gasperut was enhanced, contributing to increases in productivity and improvements in quality.