The Importance of Standard Work in Warehousing and Distribution

warehousing and distributionWhy Standard Work in Warehousing and Distribution?

A standardized operation is one in which we know the input requirements, the procedure of the process, the time for each step in which we know the procedure, and the expected output of the operation. Standards are essential for understanding the current condition of a process, supporting continuous improvement, and measuring improvement. Not only must the work be standardized, the expected inputs, procedure, and outputs must also be clearly documented. The documentation should be so clear that an outsider should be able to step into the process, understand the process, and soon operate as fully functioning team member, making appropriate contributions to the process.

Some typical warehouse functions can include:

  • Receiving
  • Put-Away/Storing
  • Replenishment
  • Picking
  • Packing
  • Shipping

While all these functions may seem simple, there are many forms of waste that could, and will be apparent in each step. By applying standard work to these steps, we can reduce waste and ensure we are running efficiently.

The reason that standardized work is so important in warehousing and distribution (or operations in general) is that it allows us to understand variance in our processes and to make appropriate corrections. Without standardization, the source of the variation is uncertain and cannot, therefore, be corrected. For that reason, standardization serves as a fundamental platform for continuous improvement. Standard work and processes prevent disruption to the stability and efficiency in warehousing and distribution. But in order to maintain this recipe for success, an operation needs an entire team dedicated to problem solving and continuous improvement.

Knowledge Sharing in Warehousing and Distribution

People are hesitant to associate standardization with the more glamorous concepts of knowledge acquisition and sharing. How could something as boring as standardized work procedures have anything to do with best practices? Standardized work is one of the simplest, yet most understood, tools in the lean lexicon. Standardized work is not intended to turn people into mindless robots, carrying out a repetitive task. The heart of standardized work is to determine the best way to complete a task, share the knowledge, and continuously improve the standard. That is, change the standard as often as you need to in order to improve it. This is one of the many lean paradoxes. For standards to change, we need to ensure that we have rigorous procedures for sharing knowledge gained while improving the process.

For example, if we improve and change a process on first shift, there needs to be a way to ensure that second shift employees gain the knowledge of the improvement through instruction. This require commitment and discipline on the part of all employees. Indeed, the transfer of knowledge can be so daunting that companies, consciously or unconsciously, often do not have a vehicle for improvement. Consequently, their processes are seldom improved, mainly because they do not know who to share what they know and what they are learning. In the end, the ability to share knowledge may be the determining factor that differentiates corporate success from failure in the new age of technology and unmatched customer awareness.

Additional Reasons for Standard Work in Warehousing and Distribution

  • Training & Cross Training Potential
  • Increased Stability & Reproducibility
  • Clarity in Scope of Work
  • Easy Transfer of Knowledge
  • Knowledge Silo Breakdown
  • Documented Current Condition
  • Measure-ability of Process
  • Ability to Improve

Doing standard work the right way requires a business investment in time, effort, and resources to build future lean leaders within warehousing and distribution. LeanCor can testify that this investment has yielded major returns from improvement projects and elevated customer service.



Posted by LeanCor Supply Chain Group

blog author

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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