A Detailed Guide To Pull Systems: With Benefits And Tips

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 7 September 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Companies adopt suitable manufacturing strategies and design systems to produce and deliver products to their customers efficiently. One of the most common manufacturing strategies is a pull system, which focuses on reducing waste in the production process. Understanding this strategy and how it works can help you determine whether it could be beneficial for a business. In this article, we discuss what a pull system is, explore the ways in which it can benefit an organisation, explain how to manage this system and share tips on how you can use this system effectively.

What Is A Pull System?

A pull system is a manufacturing technique that follows lean principles by aiming to create a workflow only if there is a demand for it. Such a system helps reduce the waste of any production process and allows a team or business to begin new work only when a customer demands it. This allows organisations to reduce their regular costs and optimise storage costs. It is a concept that various industries adopt, and professionals not only use it in manufacturing firms but also in customer service and software development.

Instead of delivering items based on the discretion of a manager or getting them delivered automatically, a pull strategy focuses on the requests from customers for the individual items. It is the opposite of the traditional push inventory system in which the managers at an organisation's distribution centre decide which products a customer might require and send them out accordingly.

Related: What Is Lean Manufacturing? (With Objectives, Pros And Cons)

What Are The Benefits Of A Pull Model?

There are many benefits of implementing this type of system. These include:

Boosts warehouse efficiency

Pull methods remove the need for deliveries and orders and therefore the additional time associated with these processes. As a result of this, there is an improvement in warehouse efficiency. As opposed to a push system, companies do not store or ship huge orders, thereby increasing the weight and size of the items in their inventory. The labour costs are also lower, as fewer orders are necessary when a pull method is in place.

Related: 20 Key Manufacturing Job Skills: How To Improve Them

Eliminates waste

In a pull strategy, a company only delivers the items a customer purchases. This reduces the chances of having excess inventory, leading to less waste and reduced expenses. For example, when an organisation produces perishable products, such as food, it might implement a pull model to ensure that the items are fresh when a customer buys them.

Related: 5 Continuous Improvement Examples (And How To Incorporate)

Enhances shipping services

Due to the on-demand delivery nature of a pull model, a company can provide better shipping services to its customers. This ensures that once a customer places an order, the company can ship it directly to them from the warehouse instead of shipping it from a different location. For instance, if a customer orders a smartphone, the company can ship it straight from its warehouse to complete the order as quickly as possible.

Decreases forecasting errors

Forecasting is a prediction method in which a company determines how much of an item it can produce and deliver to its customers. With a pull model causing orders to go out as and when the customers have a demand for it, the errors in forecasting reduce significantly. This helps the company plan its inventories and production processes, enabling it to meet customer demands.

Increases the ability to scale team size

Another benefit of using a pull model is that it can enable businesses to expand or decrease their team size as demand changes. Since no regular deliveries or orders go out, an organisation can choose to keep its team sizes as big or small as necessary, moderating it as the patterns change. For example, if a company notices a sudden increase in demand from its customers and a shortage in delivery staff members, it can easily hire some temporary employees to get the items from its warehouse and deliver them to the customers.

Reduces risks

When a company uses a pull method, it can dispatch orders to customers immediately instead of having them in storage for an extended period. This lowers the chances of errors and reduces the organisation's risks. For example, this system might allow a company to send its customers newer products with later expiration dates, which may help them use the products for longer.

Related: What Is An Inventory Manager? (Plus How To Become One)

How To Manage A Pull Strategy

Here are some steps you can follow to manage a pull model efficiently:

1. Develop a customer ordering process

Companies can create a customer ordering process that allows them to deliver products to customers as soon as they order them. To implement such a process effectively, try to create a system in which a customer can place an order directly from the warehouse. This enables the company to display those products that are currently in stock, which further reduces the delivery time.

2. Assess your physical layout

After creating a customer ordering process, the next step is to evaluate the physical layout of the distribution centre and warehouse. Ensure there are enough delivery routes for the driver to carry bulk deliveries to the store as soon as the customers have ordered them. For example, you might have a layout that enables employees to access products easily and place them on the trucks for shipment to reach the customers quickly.

3. Regulate the physical layout

For a company to manage its inventory efficiently, it might want to set the stock levels for the items it sells. Consider using an inventory management system such as a product rotation system where you update the inventories of the products by removing them from or adding them to the database. You can then send out the orders for the new items, allowing the customers to receive them speedily.

For example, if a customer buys two phones from an electronics store, the salesperson might add two phones to the order database and update the inventory database accordingly. This allows for quick delivery of the products.

4. Alter processes as necessary

Keep evaluating the current processes and implement alterations and changes whenever necessary. To identify strategies that may require improvement, you can constantly monitor the performance of the pull model and the business's order processes. You can do this by tracking how often customers receive their orders on time and how many customer complaints a company gets about its offerings.

Related: What Is A Master Production Schedule? (How To Implement One)

Tips For Using A Pull Method

A pull strategy works well if you know how to use it effectively. Here are some tips for using a pull method so that it benefits the business:

Organise your order process carefully

Plan and carefully organise your order process before you set up a different inventory management system to manage the pull technique. Take enough time to evaluate the company's sales and purchasing patterns thoroughly. By doing so, you can effectively design a plan to meet the requirements and needs of the customers. For instance, you might buy warehouse supplies and then decide how long it might take for customers to receive their orders.

Related: 20 Key Manufacturing Job Skills: How To Improve Them

Monitor stock management

Stock management forms an integral part of a pull strategy. It is critical to review the flow of each product from the warehouse to the inventory management system daily so that you can manage the stocks properly. You can then make adjustments to deal with the stock levels accordingly. For instance, if you see a particular item is out of stock, you can remove it from the database.

Utilise a mobile inventory system

A mobile inventory system is helpful when it comes to inventory management in a pull strategy. This software allows you to access a business's inventory via mobile or computer. For example, you may use such software to identify which products are in stock at the warehouse and then add the products to an order queue for delivery drivers.

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