ARTICLE UPDATED ON JUNE 22, 2023
Following Lean Warehousing Principles for Improved Efficiency
A top goal for warehouse managers is to run an effective operation in which productivity is high and goods flow efficiently throughout the supply chain. However, as markets continue to shift, demand skyrockets, and the supply chain evolves, it can be difficult for fulfillment centers to keep up and meet consumer needs while focusing on streamlining processes. Finding the right methods and eliminating those that are hindering productivity can be a headache for logistics coordinators.
Lean warehousing principles involve a warehouse management approach that eliminates any process that creates bottlenecks or does not provide value. The goal of lean warehousing is to keep the supply chain as flexible and responsive to demand as possible. The result is higher efficiency and productivity that lowers operating costs for businesses across the board.
Defining Lean Warehousing Principles for Your Business
Implementing lean strategies can help eliminate waste without impacting productivity. One way to implement lean principles into warehouses is with the five-step 5S organization method, which can be applied to nearly any facility:
- Sort: The first step to creating a lean warehouse involves sorting through all processes, inventory, and equipment to determine what is essential and what can be removed. By taking high level inventory of the warehouse’s operations, businesses can break them down and reduce the steps in these tasks to the absolute minimum needed, allowing for employees to operate more efficiently. Additionally, consolidation of inventory and equipment will help maximize warehouse space.
- Set: Once warehouse operations are optimized and any extra clutter is removed, warehouse managers can now consider how to arrange warehouse inventory, racks, storage areas, and equipment so that order fulfillment and other processes takes as little time as possible to complete. As an example, managers may decide to store heavy and fragile items that need special handling closer to the loading docks to alleviate the distance that must be navigated while fulfilling those orders.
- Shine: As customer demand rises and warehouses are busy keeping the supply chain moving, it is easy to overlook regular maintenance. In addition to basic cleaning, this step also involves maintaining and upgrading equipment to ensure it is operating correctly, and prioritizing warehouse safety. Keeping a warehouse clean and well organized is critical to maintaining lean, efficient operations. Establishing a maintenance reporting schedule at the end of each shift helps ensure that all equipment is operational and all spaces are clean.
- Standardize: Now that processes are streamlined, and the warehouse is clean and organized for maximum efficiency, it is time to make these methods standard practices for employees across the board. Uniformity of communication and processes is an important part of minimizing the time it takes to perform operations in the warehouse. To get the most out of lean warehouse practices, the streamlined processes need to become routine. Employees should also be trained and provided with all materials needed to adopt these methods into their daily workflow.
- Sustain: Once a standard procedure is set in place to create a leaner warehouse, it is critical that managers and employees commit to sustaining these practices long-term. As the supply chain evolves and shifts, a facility is always improving, and management and workers must collaborate to find greater efficiencies. Lean warehousing principles demand incremental, sustained improvement over time.
Adopting Lean Warehousing Principle Across the Supply Chain
Creating customized practices for each warehouse requires two-way communication at every level of the supply chain. This takes effort, but efficiency improvements and optimization reduce the total cost of business and can add up substantially over time. Implementing automated processes and making the switch to recyclable, pooled plastic shipping pallets from iGPS can also help make warehouses and fulfillment centers leaner and more efficient.
As enterprises continue to feel the pressures of sluggish hiring and rising consumer demand, it is important to optimize and streamline processes wherever possible. Following lean warehousing principles and best practices can help boost efficiency and enhance productivity in the long term.
Companies that want to streamline their warehouse principles use plastic pallets from iGPS, which are lightweight, recyclable, and help streamline your supply chain. For more information, contact us at 1-866-557-0047, email [email protected], or visit our contact page. We also invite you to follow us on LinkedIn.