Is Colo a Form of Local Supply Chain?

I finally finished listening to "Retraction", a recent episode of TAL. My favorite part of the episode was Ira's discussion with NYTimes reporter Charles Duhigg on the facts of working conditions at Apple’s supply chain partners. At one point, Duhigg referenced his January article on why manufacturing jobs go overseas. It’s all about the supply chain, which can quickly scale up, scale down, and responds to changes in design or demand. Although it’s quite logical when you compare the “minimal” labor costs to material expenses, it isn’t usually part of the mainstream conversation (or at least the conversation that I hear).

The day after I finished Retraction, I read “Not-So-Dumb Technology” in March’s issue of Metropolis. The article, written by Karrie Jacobs, offers a low tech comparison to Duhigg’s argument: cardboard. (Duhigg was in my mind as I was reading; in fact, Jacobs concludes with a reference to the very same January article.) MIO, a Philadelphia-based “quirky household goods” design firm, opted to work with the local supply chain instead of Chinese manufacturing. The 5-mile drive between MIO and Weber, a cardboard manufacturer, enables Jaime Salm, MIO co-founder, to keep a close eye on practices and quality. It also enables MIO to make rapid product design changes.

These two articles just wouldn’t quit swirling around in the back around in my mind, but after a few days I realized why I was so stuck on them. It’s basically co-location.

Creating a local supply chain for commercial construction is challenging. A few LEED credits “force” us to aim for local products and manufacturing, but don’t actually create the benefit of a local supply chain. On the other hand, co-location creates a very local supply chain. Like Jaime Salm visiting Weber, architects and engineers can keep a better eye on the manufacturing plan – and they can make and implement informed design changes.

I always appreciate making connections between our process and other industries - especially when they validate what we're doing! It is nothing profound, but I've cleared some space to chewing on something else on my reading list.

2 comments:

Johann Palacios, P.E. said...

LH,
I think you have pointed out a very important issue, that colocating is indeed an undeniable form of local supply chain. I'm sure it can be viewed also as a LEAN practice with respect to our design and construction practice, in that colo is reducing waste in several forms: waiting, avoiding potential misunderstandings in the form of email communication (because you're right there!), and of course the downstream consequences of those potential misunderstandings that may not get understood correctly until later, like reworking of plans and/or mistaken assumptions from poor communication. Btw, I define poor communication to include when architects and the consultants fail to track/create a narrative/cloud changes during the design phase (anything before CD's are produced), which creates waste in the form of the consultants having to look for those changes which costs time/fee. The expression of "Is Colo a form of local supply chain?" itself I think forces us to expand the definition of LEAN as it applies to D&C, and strengthens further the relationship of BIM to LEAN practice (re: BIMforum Kansas City topic, Summer 2010).
Thanks for the insight L!

JP

Johann Palacios, P.E. said...

LH,
I think you have pointed out a very important issue, that colocating is indeed an undeniable form of local supply chain. I'm sure it can be viewed also as a LEAN practice with respect to our design and construction practice, in that colo is reducing waste in several forms: waiting, avoiding potential misunderstandings in the form of email communication (because you're right there!), and of course the downstream consequences of those potential misunderstandings that may not get understood correctly until later, like reworking of plans and/or mistaken assumptions from poor communication. Btw, I define poor communication to include when architects and the consultants fail to track/create a narrative/cloud changes during the design phase (anything before CD's are produced), which creates waste in the form of the consultants having to look for those changes which costs time/fee. The expression of "Is Colo a form of local supply chain?" itself I think forces us to expand the definition of LEAN as it applies to D&C, and strengthens further the relationship of BIM to LEAN practice (re: BIMforum Kansas City topic, Summer 2010).
Thanks for the insight L!

JP