Once upon a time, there was an important job to be done at Mammoth Manufacturing. Everybody was sure Somebody would do it. Anybody could have done it. Nobody did it.

Somebody got angry because it was Everybody’s job. Everybody thought Anybody could do it, but Nobody realized that Everybody wouldn’t do it.

In the end, after a Big Customer took its business elsewhere, Everybody blamed Somebody because Nobody did what Anybody could have done.


There’s a missing link in most manufacturing organizations. It isn’t critical parts, nor is it the leadership and discipline that should have kept them from going missing. The missing link is internal logistics.

Logistics comprises procurement, maintenance and transportation of material, equipment and personnel. Logistics in most manufacturing organizations are separated into external and internal logistics. The external logistics issues are usually dealt with fairly well through the purchasing and shipping functions.

What about internal logistics? Isn’t that taken care of by...? And there’s the problem. Typically, no one is responsible for internal logistics. Various people are expected to handle logistics in their "spare time," so it becomes an afterthought, if it gets any attention at all.

For an organization to be truly effective, key behaviors that define the operational art must be pervasive throughout the company.

  • Goals conform to actual conditions. Are we working on the important stuff?
  • Efforts are focused on achieving goals. Are we putting first things first?
  • Action is simultaneous across the depth and breadth of the organization. Is everyone working together?
  • Efforts are coordinated throughout the organization. Are we avoiding duplication of effort?
  • Adaptable operations are sustained at a high tempo. Are we flexible?
  • Everyone’s effectiveness is maintained. Are we taking care of each other?
  • Individual events are combined to achieve objectives. Do we all have the same goal in mind?
Ensuring that these key behaviors are pervasive is an exercise in internal logistics, and its objective is to achieve and maintain "yes" answers. To accomplish this, internal logistics must be an integral part of your operational planning—not an afterthought. Here’s how:
  • Develop formal interior and exterior logistics plans—procedures for procurement, maintenance and transportation of material, equipment and personnel.
  • Transmit these logistics plans to the operator level, both formally and informally.
  • Create a floor plan that shows the location of equipment, control points and material flow for all process steps in the process flow chart.
  • Set up pull systems and kanbans to manage production and material movement.
  • Store material at its point of use.
  • Use job safety analyses to take ergonomic factors into account.
You have to treat logistics holistically, lest the solution to one problem jeopardize the solution to another. For example, if you route materials for a subcontractor through receiving, you’ll create transactions and space allocations for material that never should have entered your system in the first place.

Another example is buying in bulk to get the next price reduction. If the minimum package size is a year’s supply for every line and you have 12 lines that use that part, you need space for a 12-year supply. But hey, think of the money you "saved."

The need to focus on internal logistics is clear. The benefits are enormous, and ignoring it can lead to crippling operational ineffectiveness. Give it the attention it deserves.