6 Tried and True Best Practices for Lean Warehousing

Taking a standard approach to lean warehousing drives tangible and measurable results. These can include labor productivity, equipment and space utilization, and inventory reduction. Here are six key practices that have proven successful in lean warehousing.

Value Stream and Process Mapping

Mapping allows you to reduce lead time and improve quality through identifying and eliminating waste and non-value-add process steps. Creating a visible process with quantifiable data, enables you to see incorrect work sequences, process variation, surplus motion, excess inventory and unnecessary transportation. Most importantly, it provides a road map to improve the business.

Standard Work Development

lean-warehousing Receiving Audit Card

Create, document, and audit all processes to generate tasks that are easily repeatable with planned zero waste. This allows your team members to understand processes from the point of view of inputs, procedures, timing and outputs while creating a baseline to improve upon. Team member training and engagement is critical as they are in the best position to identify problems and create sustainable solutions. For example, creating standard work audit cards that can be picked up by any supervisor or manager to audit standard work ensures compliance and re-emphasizes critical to quality tasks.

Level Flow of Information and Materials

Create level flow by using customer consumption data to align your work to the takt time of the operation. Applying this principle allows you to question the current state, implement pull systems, and smooth demand to level-load responsibilities and enhance performance.

Facility Layout and Material Flow

There are several tools you can use to develop proper facility layout and material flow in lean warehousing. Relationship mapping allows you to define which core processes need to be located next to each other based on activity levels. Movement string charts allow you to ensure optimal flow and create a safe traffic pattern with minimal pinch points. Racking layout & CAD drawings are used to define aisle widths and storage capacities. ABC slotting analysis identifies high velocity parts to store closest to the shipping dock.

Sustainment and Continuous Improvement of 5S

In lean warehousing, 5S creates a safe work environment, improves employee morale, teaches process discipline, improves process quality, and enables problem exposure. That said, at LeanCor we take it very seriously. The first three S’s (Sort, Set, and Shine) are easy and can be accomplished by anyone. We recognize that for 5S to be successful, extra attention needs to be given to Standardize and Sustain. Standard work, regular audits, and employee ownership are keys to sustaining a safe, clean, and visual work environment. As a result, problems are easy to see and improvement comes naturally.

Visual Workplace / Visual Management

Develop and maintain a visual workplace that enables anyone at any time to understand the current condition of the operation. This ensures at all times you can answer the question, “What is the score?” You are able to “see, know, and act as a group." At LeanCor, we project a real-time calculator on the walls of one of our facilities for all team members to see how we are doing relative to the customer’s kitting requirement orders. Exceptions become visible and team members can adjust their work to ensure customer requirements are met.

Unlike other areas of our work, in lean warehousing you can really get your hands around the results. Also unlike other aspects of the supply chain, these activities can be measured accurately. We can have accurate baselines from which to measure improvement.

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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