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Lean in the Warehouse

Chances are, you have at least one wasteful process that happens every single day in your warehouse. Whether it’s a “workaround” for an outdated system your team no longer uses or a failure to rotate stock to reflect current demands, think of these issues as small cracks in an hourglass.

Even if a stream of wasted sand is small, eventually it can drain the entire hourglass.

Each day, you only get one flip of that hourglass to make the most out of your company, your warehouse, and your team — so why would you let waste go unchecked when it’s so easy to fix?

The key to discovering these bothersome little cracks in the glass is learning how to communicate with your warehousing staff directly, and observing their daily routines with an eye towards improvement.

Are they struggling with large loads and needing to make several trips? Do you see a bottleneck at the packing area? Are scanners difficult to operate or too slow to respond?

These are all issues you can correct with simple equipment improvements or even just shift a table to the right or left on the warehouse floor. The overall goal is to make each trip through your warehouse, whether it’s picking, packing, stocking or inventory cycling counting, as fast, user-friendly and efficient as possible. 

Lean to Your Team

While no worker should be considered a single-task “asset,” lean hiring and employee management mean playing to your team’s strengths. Again, this is where open communication will serve you well; discussing their likes and dislikes about their responsibilities will help you steer them into positions that will ensure your company maximum efficiency and effort while simultaneously offering them excellent work satisfaction.

This isn’t to say you can’t assign an employee several tasks, but ensure these tasks add value to the operation as smart allocation with your current staff will support productivity and reduce wasted time.

When making new hire decisions, actively seek candidates that would be a good fit for several positions at the same level and hire candidates with prior lean experience — this will ultimately give you more lean flexibility and hedge against staff retirement or losses.

Apply Lean to Your Supply Chain Partners

Even though most of their work happens outside your warehouse walls, vendors and logistics providers are important components to reinforcing lean habits. Your systems need to be able to seamlessly integrate with theirs, to the end of utilizing their data and effort whenever possible.

If the work’s already done and your company can make use of it, that’s labor and time you won’t have to expend to make things happen. If your current supply chain partners are resistant to the evolution of your partnership or sharing data, don’t be afraid to carefully consider your ongoing partnerships with them.

As market demands grow, you’ll need scalable support that’s poised to help, not hinder, your business goals.

Charles Intrieri
Mr. Charles (Chuck) Intrieri is a highly experienced and credentialed Supply Chain professional and is a recognized thought leader and innovator, primarily in the areas of Supply Chain Optimization, Third Party Logistics (3PL) International Purchasing/Importing, Requests for Quotation (RFQ) generation, Inventory Management and Logistics, Warehousing, strategic sourcing, supplier management, contract negotiations, truckling: TL/LTL/TMS/pooling/consolidation and reviews, and Purchasing operations. He is a motivational team builder with a history of conducting significant organizational transformation and achieving important operational successes at the local, regional and global level. Charles M. Intrieri Consulting LEAN, Inventory Optimization, 3PL, Supply Chain, & Logistics Consulting 714-788-0744 Tustin, CA-PST

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