There is a lot of talk about “Lean Warehousing” at the moment and how it is the future of warehousing practices however many people still do not know exactly what lean warehousing is. Many believe that to have a lean warehouse it means reducing staff numbers. This is a common misunderstanding; lean warehousing simply means that companies employ working practices which consider the different resources involved in getting the products from the warehouse to the customer while eliminating the actions which do not contribute to the value of the product such as unnecessary paperwork and double handling of equipment.
The principles of lean warehousing dictate that you look at the operation from the customer’s perspective and work out the value of the product; once you have completed this you must complete a map of your value stream which will show the steps which benefit and add value to your product as well as the steps which add no value and should therefore be eliminated. Once these items have been identified companies must act on their findings.
Many choose to do this by employing the lean philosophy of the 5S’s:
- Sort – eliminate all unnecessary items which do not contribute to the value of the product such as paper work – use RF equipment instead of manually writing what is received, picked or packed
- Set in order – set warehouse out with efficient and effective storage methods and pathways such as storing high moving items in the ideal picking locations close to the packing location to minimise double handing and the amount of time to pick and pack
- Shine – thoroughly clean the warehouse ensuring that all items are correctly labelled and stored. Do not leave items in walkways. This will increase the speed and accuracy of your workers as they do not have to waste time looking for items and moving boxes out of the way
- Standardise – use best practice in the warehouse such as mobile computers and label printers to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the warehouse. Employ RF technology which will be able to direct your staff to the correct location by the fastest route in order to pick orders
- Sustain – ensure the changes are adopted by the staff members by helping them to understand the change they will then be lest resistant and will not go back to the old ways Always keep evaluating your value stream and eliminate anything which does not add to the value of the product.