Everyday Lean: Automated Coffee Ordering
I am a real amazon.com power user… they are my “single source” supplier as often as practical. I have almost always ordered my replacement pods through Amazon — fast, consistent delivery and shipping through their frequent customer program.
I recently discovered and took advantage of a “Subscribe & Save” service that they offer. If you're willing to sign up for a frequency of your choice, they ship automatically and give you a 15% discount each time (with no cancellation fees). Not a bad deal as a customer.
Now this isn't a “kanban” system really. This *is* a planned, scheduled “push” from amazon to my house. This is sometimes referred to, especially in hospitals, as a “standing order” system.
My previous set up, where I initiated the order, was a true “pull” — when inventory got down to a certain level, I'd log in and place a “one click” order. Pretty easy, with no need for a “subscription.” I was using a “re-order point” pull system previously.
A standing order system can work if you have very steady and predictable use of an item. The risk with standing orders is that if your usage is high, you'll run out before more is sent. Or, if usage is low, you'll end up with excess inventory. At least here, with the coffee pods, inventory is small and relatively cheap. I'll err on the side of ordering more frequently than I really need to.
The Amazon website even told me that I last ordered the pods on February 8th. So, a little over two months. I set up a two month subscription frequency. If inventory is ever piling up, I'll just cancel or change the shipment frequency.
So why would I set up a push system? You'd think I'd be a “lean purist” and only want a pull system. Well, the 15% discount is an incentive to allow that push. And the downside risk is pretty low. I figured it was worth it to at least experiment with system.
What about you? Do any of you subscription type services that automatically deliver a quantity of something to your house? It's sort of like the old “milk man” type service, right? But today, we “pull” milk from the grocery store.
Some other issues that we could explore on this this topic:
- Which has more waste — me driving to a store to buy these (or combining the purchase with a broader grocery trip) or taking advantage of the efficiencies of the UPS delivery network?
- What about the environmental impact of these small plastic coffee pods? At least I am countering that by brewing into a reusable travel mug, which helps cut down on the paper waste at a Starbucks store… of course I could take my travel mug to Starbucks (and they give you a discount for doing that even).
Updated: A few of you asked what single cup brewer I use. We love our Keurig for making both coffee AND tea. It's very fast and convenient in the morning before your commute or any time you don't feel like a full pot of coffee.
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