Warehouse Operations

Lean Culture in a Warehouse Operations Setting

By: David Sherman

Many companies today are realizing that a lean culture is a more effective culture in regards to operations within a firm, such as warehousing, logistics, supply chain, etc. A lean cultural change is not something that can or will happen overnight. A lean cultural shift is a process that is methodic and will take some time to implement and complete. This lean cultural implementation will shift the thinking and the actions of the entire firm toward a waste removing, and continuously learning culture. In regards to a lean cultural shift and establishment in a warehouse operations setting, the values of lean must be embraced by all members of the team, especially (at the beginning of the shift) by the upper management and leadership team members. Lean management culture bridges a critical divide: the gap between lean tools and lean thinking. Lean leadership can help make or break a firm’s lean cultural shift.

Lean Leadership Culture

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Before a lean cultural shift in a given area of a firm, the upper management and C-level managers must be well versed in lean methodologies and understand that the shift will take time. These leaders must also be aware of the needs of their employers as well to help guide them in their lean journeys as the firm begins a cultural shift. In a specific function i.e. warehouse operations, lean leaders must also be able to present these cultural shifts in a safe and manageable way as these operations are generally fast paced and can see gains immediately upon implementation as they are the ground level for these changes. As lean leaders are more knowledgeable in these areas of cultural change, the firm is more likely to see successful spells of growth with this lean cultural shift. The role of the lean transformational leader is to create a lean culture that is predominantly constructive and adapts quickly to change. Lean cultural shift initiatives are widely recognized process improvement methods that help businesses improve their competitiveness.

Cultivating Lean Leaders

Implementing lean tools represents at most 20 percent of the effort in Lean transformations. The other 80 percent of the effort is expended on changing leaders' practices and behaviors, and ultimately their mindset. Having lean leaders and management teams that facilitate the lean culture is key to that culture’s perpetuation and success. Lean leaders and managers are able to drive continuous learning and improvement efforts in the warehouse operations areas of their firm in order to level flow inventory, reduce processing time, increasing flow and velocity to meet customer demand/pull.

Lean management and culture is supplemented to ensure the following strategies are met within a firm:

  1. Standard processes are not only followed, but continuously improved and sustained to meet customer demand(s)
  2. Supporting change and behavior that will perpetuate the lean culture within that firm
  3. Giving power to the employees to seek, understand, and resolve the problems they face on a daily basis (continuous learning/improvement)
  4. Promoting and encourage learning and cross-functional collaboration

As lean leaders and management teams continue to be proponents of the topics discussed above, firms will be more likely to garner success in their lean cultural shifts and continuations. What else can these leaders do to help their teams grow and continue on the lean journey?

Posted by LeanCor Supply Chain Group

LeanCor Supply Chain Group is a trusted supply chain partner that specializes in lean principles to deliver operational improvement. LeanCor’s three integrated divisions – LeanCor Training and Education, LeanCor Consulting, and LeanCor Logistics – help organizations eliminate waste, drive down costs, and build a culture of continuous improvement.

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