Lean Warehousing focuses on increase value, eliminating waste, and lower cost. Warehousing value is handling and storing material without damage. People often uses the term “lean” as employees wearing multiple hats like the warehouse manager is also the sales, quality, and safety quality manager. While that is leaner compared to the past, Lean identifies waste as non-useful task in the operation. Lowering labor and storage cost is a result of eliminating waste and focusing on value added steps within the warehouse.
As I work with partners, the first step is to identify the steps to receive, stock and load material. Every warehouse and account are unique (product dimensions and weight, storage requirements, etc.… I get it), but we start with the average product or largest account. Documenting the steps to receive and unload an order seems simple at first, but we take it a step further to establish written instructions where new or temporary employees can understand the process. The same steps are followed for stocking material in the warehouse. If you have a WMS, that’s great, and it makes stocking the product that much easier. However, there are still different stocking strategies within a WMS to evaluate the best method for your warehouse. Lastly is picking product and loading orders. Do you stage or live load? Why? Again, there’s no right or wrong answer, we just want to understand the best procedure for your organization. Once we have documenting the primary steps a warehouse we are paid for, we want to distinguish the value and non-value-added steps within the process. Lean refers to this tool as a value-stream map as it identifies value and waste within a process.
Housekeeping and organization are the other pillar to Lean Warehousing. Within your warehouse is housekeeping the janitor’s responsibility or everyone’s? Are associates and operators cleaning their area during the shift or does clutter, and debris accumulate during the shift or even worse the week or month? Lean applies a tool called 5S which stands for (Sort, Set, Shine, Standardize, and Sustain). In my experiences most organizations have the Shine down with a written housekeeping program that’s related to safety. The other steps seem elementary, but they are fundamental to improving storage utilization and eliminating waste. Here’s a link to download 5S Secrets to implementing 5S.
If your warehouse has standard operating procedure and housekeeping program, you are ready for lean. If these programs are not in place, no reason to fret. Warehouse Engineers is willing to meet you where you are at. The lead partner at Warehouse Engineers didn’t start at a lean facility; rather, I went to training and got a Lean Coach. On my 1st and 2nd lean deployment, there were trials and errors and mistakes along the way, but we got there. I can help your organization cut the fat and start your lean journey.