4 Improvement Opportunities in Lean Warehousing

4 Improvement Opportunities in Lean Warehousing

By: Susie Sterling - Director, Supply Chain Solutions

We had a great summer webinar series at LeanCor - hundreds of supply chain professionals tuned in for best practices in lean and operational excellence! Our most recent Lean Warehousing webinar was our highest attended webinar to date. Before the webinar, we distributed a Lean Warehousing Benchmarking Assessment to our network. The assessment covered the topics of safety, customer focus, stability, standardization, visibility, quality at the source, flow, teamwork and collaboration, and continuous improvement. For each assessment question, participants rated themselves on a scale of 1, 3, or 5 based on their current condition.

1= No formal process or expectation in place.

3= A process exist, but it is loosely followed and rarely improved upon.

5= Formal process in place that is followed with discipline and continuously improved upon

The overall results conveyed some very interesting insights about improvement opportunities that exist in the industry today. Overall, the results showed a focus on safety and teamwork which is a clear sign of good management in the lean warehousing community. The areas of opportunity included: Stability, Continuous Improvement, Quality at the Source, Standardization and Flow of Materials.

lean warehousing assessments

Opportunity #1:

“Regular Gemba walks occur to identify waste in the warehouse.”

Gemba is where the work is being performed. In lean warehousing, leaders go to the workplace, walk the “Gemba,” and understand that managing by walking around is the most valuable way a leader can spend their time. This is an opportunity for improvement in many warehouses, we found.

Opportunity #2:

“All team members engage in a formal problem solving process for continuous improvement.”

Problem solving is not new to any of us leaders; we all understand the importance of it. What we need to realize, however, is that if we don’t instill this activity to all levels of our lean warehouse, our lean culture will come to a standstill. In successful warehouses everyone is involved in daily problem solving and is expected to identify improvement opportunities. “No Problem is a Problem” – what a great opportunity to embrace a learning culture.

Opportunity #3:

“We level demand over available working time in the warehouse.”

This topic is closely related to the TAKT time calculations, a resource scheduling technique that takes available time over the demand and understands the optimal number of team members for our warehouse. We have to be careful, however, with simply calculating without going to the warehouse, the receiving, shipping dock or the put away process – aka to the GEMBA. We will quickly see and understand that workload and demand constantly fluctuates in a lean dedicated warehouse. A lean leader strives to level this demand as much as they can, to eliminate waste and unevenness of workload for the employees.

Some ways to do this include:

  • Revisiting resource scheduling on a daily basis, instead of weekly or monthly
  • Conducting time studies (helpful if conducted correctly)
  • Understanding your customer’s demand and using it as your pace setter when scheduling work. Create your resource scheduling based on this true data. Avoid working off of reports and forecasts.
  • Using disciplined yard management to manage the inbound and outbound dock schedule of a warehouse

Opportunity #4:

“We implement poke yokes to error proof processes and prevent defects from happening.”

Do we understand the difference between errors and defects? Do all our team members embrace the golden rules of quality at the source and error proofing in a lean dedicated warehouse? Errors are just mistakes – 1. Never make one, 2. Never take one, but if you do… 3. Never pass one on. It is a very empowering message to team members – one that suggests that we all own our processes; we have to take pride in our work and also support our upstream and downstream processes by pointing out errors and fix them before they get to the customer and become defects.






Posted by LeanCor Supply Chain Group

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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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