Lean manufacturing is not unique to the paper towel industry — over the past several decades, it has become prevalent in auto manufacturing, fast-fashion clothing makers and many other industries. But when there’s a run on a product, shortages happen. Paper towel manufacturers were left unprepared, as their operations were not built for a pandemic.
Paper towels are classified as a functional supply chain product, which means that the product is a basic necessity for most households. When demand fluctuates intensely, as it has during the Covid-19 pandemic, there is often insufficient inventory and capacity to meet the demand, no matter what inventory management system is used, LEI notes.