Matt Hrivnak

Kaizen: There's always another future state

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As we discussed before, it’s obvious that basic principles of Lean can benefit a large number of people if incorporated into their daily lives.  One recent example is the new Amazon Dash Button; originally rumored to be an April Fools’ Day stunt, but that has since been properly vetted and confirmed by some reliable sources. Even if it turns out to be a joke, we’re still going to talk about it in this article Bringing Lean Home: Amazon Dash Button!

Simply put, this is just your basic pull system that many of us have utilized for years in our manufacturing or business lives.

The way it works is that when one notices they are running low on certain products (select major brands at this time), they simply press the button and that signal is provided to your home Wi-Fi and an order is sent to Amazon for replenishment.  It requires the user to first setup the Dash Button by syncing everything together through the Amazon app on a smartphone.  The end result is supposed to be a seamless reordering process for Amazon Prime members on the items they use on a regular basis and that often require wasteful trips to the store when they inconveniently run out.  Check it out by clicking the image below (not a referral link, just a regular old link).




Sound familiar? It should.  Think about your basic pattern production, replenishment pull systems:  material is consumed and some type of signal (kanban, empty bin, etc.) is sent back to the producing area to replenish the same standard quantity and type.  Just like we discussed in Kanban the Milkman a while back.  In this case, the kanban is the signal being sent electronically from the button.  Simple, straight forward and easy.  All one has to do is consume the product and press the button.

Actually, this could come back to manufacturing one day as well as they are reportedly offering the Amazon Dash Replenishment Service for any of your products.  This could have huge implications on manufacturing, logistics and supply chain planning if incorporated properly.  I’d see it as helping smaller manufacturers and businesses more than larger organizations as they are often the ones that don’t have access to sophisticated planning software or systems that use similar technology.  With Amazon’s growing infrastructure and partners, small companies would easily start benefiting from their massive scale and associated technologies, like this replenishment service.  The proof will be in how it all tests out and how far they can eventually push the technology (see below); it has to be proven first.

As long as Amazon is able to deliver quickly and keep the cost to roughly that of your average purchase of the item in store, then it works for me.  I like the move forward in the Lean aspect of it; however, I don’t think that I’d want twenty or thirty different Amazon Dash Buttons placed around my house.

Optimally, I’d like to see it taken a step further with some sort of proximity sensor (RFID or otherwise) that reorders the product when it recognizes the empty container in the trash bin or when it leaves the property, etc.  The active user element of having to push the button to replenish is not entirely fool-proof and still leaves room for stockouts to occur when someone uses the last of the product.  I think we’ve all taken the last of something and put an empty container back or not informed someone that we’ve used it up!

For more information on the Amazon Dash Button:

Recommended reading on related topics: Creating Level Pull by Art Smalley


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Comments (2) Posted by matt on Wednesday, April 1st, 2015