Kanban: Several tons of rust on the road are ugly

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Reylito A.H. Elbo

Reylito A.H. Elbo

IS there such a thing as progressive delay? Let me tell you another story. There’s a woman who placed an order with an online shopping company. Several days later, she received a reply from the customer service: “Thank you for your order. Due to recent improvements in our shipping procedures, please expect some delay in the shipment of your order.”

It’s one of those things that can stress people out, especially during the Christmas season. Unnecessary stress can happen in a nanosecond when you start your car, leave the house, only to be disappointed at the village gate when you see motorists blocking the road because an idiot jeepney driver suddenly made a stop at the yellow box to pick up some equally stupid passengers who couldn’t care less about you.

Multiply that situation several thousand times and you can imagine the chaos. I feel terrible that way for this country. Anyway, I’m always guided by the basic rule of safety and security not to engage in conflict with anyone, but instead see the big picture or look at it from a different angle.

That’s why I’m wondering how logistics and the supply chain systems are coping with port congestion, increased volume of vehicles, road repairs, undisciplined motorists and blind traffic enforcers, among others.


At a different angle, the first buzzword that came to my mind was kanban – a Japanese word for just-in-time delivery that relies on continuous supply of materials and yet minimizes inventory and other related costs. Kanban is best done in a situation where suppliers and its customers are within a controlled area, like an export processing zone.

The key is the supermarket model, according to Euclides Coimbra, in his book “Kaizen in Logistics and Supply Chain” (2013). Coimbra says the supermarket is a storage area that follows the following rules: (1) It has a fixed location for every part number. (2) It provides easy picking access from ground-level storage. (3) It allows visual management. (4) It adheres to the first-in, first-out concept. (5) It is designed to enable flow and easy handling of small containers, containers on wheels, and trolleys.

But how can you do kanban when suppliers are far apart from its customers? For instance, how can a Laguna manufacturer deliver its goods to its customers in Bulacan, which is 100 kilometers away with the maze blocked by jaywalkers, sidewalk vendors, padyak (manual tricycles) boys, child-spiders (small-time thieves), motor maniacs, corrupt enforcers, and other nincompoops?

That’s against all odds. That’s how we, Filipinos, build our strong resolve to survive. We have learned to cope with it every day even if we feel there’s a live eel from our throat that prevents us from complaining to authorities, except to utter traditional bad words against their back.

I think the only plausible answer for a kanban application in an uncontrolled zone like Metro Manila is to have your goods delivered at night. Come nightfall, say from 12:00 midnight to 4:00 in the morning, everybody is expected to be drawn inside their abode, giving away free, unhampered use of roads and bridges to delivery truckers, many of which are high on Cobra™ drink, if not the illegal variety.

Now, let me offer you a bit of rational explanation on this humble proposal. What if the government guarantees free use of toll roads at nighttime? Add to that, the protection of law enforcers against high-jacking syndicates and other criminal elements.

As additional come-on, customs procedures must be fast-tracked if export and import goods are to be delivered by midnight to 4:00 in the morning. Whatever savings the manufacturers can earn out of that may be used to pay the overtime premium and night differential for all workers involved.

Do they sound practical and reasonable? Why don’t we try it, at least for a limited, experimental period? I’m not saying that there will be no problems after that. I’m just saying that there are many solutions out there. Instead of harping endlessly against our traffic problems, we can make suggestions such as this.

Another thing, why don’t we push the associations of jeepney drivers and operators to take the lead in putting order on our streets? Frankly, I don’t know how it could make economic sense for these associations to be in vogue violating our basic traffic rules that contribute much to chaos. But wait, maybe I know. If our environmental advocates are looking for solutions to their areas of concern, I’d like to volunteer our jeepneys as fish shelters.

Rey Elbo is a business consultant specializing in human resources and total quality management as a fused interest. Send feedback to elbonomics@gmail.com or follow him on Facebook, LinkedIn, or Twitter for his random management thoughts.

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1 Comment

  1. i think kanban cannot be implemented in the philippines because pinoys have a penchant for “oido,” another japanese word which describes a way of doing things…