5 Lean Best Practices for the Warehouse
Blog: Apriso Blog
While most of today’s warehouses have some plan to operate as efficiently as possible, it is likely new opportunities still exist to squeeze out inefficiencies. There is a reason why Lean methodologies are considered a “continuous” process improvement. Things change; suppliers get added; new employees are hired; and new facilities are added to the mix. Over time, it is inevitable that a fresh approach to operational efficiency should be performed, with the payoff of identifying a couple of process improvements that can make an impact on your bottom line, as well as to positively impact your customers.
With the goal of eliminating waste, the following are five suggestions on how you might remove deficiencies that are having a negative impact on productivity and profitability. I challenge you to review these five key organizational standards as possible areas for improvement. Even if just one works, it will help you to reduce warehouse, and even plant inefficiency, which will then result in improved asset management performance within your organization.
1. Data Governance
The principles driving “lean” data governance suggest data should be input once, and then recalled autonomously as an embedded part of as many processes as possible. The opportunity here is to avoid the need to do clean up, reconciliations, or any other extra work necessary to ensure the integrity and accuracy of the data is maintained. Every time it is “touched” unnecessarily, that is a wasted effort – through time spent, wages paid, etc.
The most common way to accomplish this objective is to focus on superior technology tools that can help to ensure data integrity, standardization of processes and meaningful audit capabilities. All of these components are critical not only within a warehouse environment, but also across as a cross-organizational effort to optimize the tracking of inventory and material throughput, within not only your own warehouse or plant, but out to the extended supply chain as well. Better visibility into these operations will result in greater accuracy of the data collected, and a reduced need to do clean up later down the line. Many top-performing organizations realize significant benefits in terms of market competitiveness when they deploy advanced warehouse technology and reporting tools that privilege data governance.
2. Inventory Storage Management Solutions
Today, most organizations include warehouse and inventory management within their operations, production or supply chain management functions. One of the aims of supply chain management is to optimize inventory throughput by leveraging the value of real-time information concerning the status of inventory and storage bin utilization. Superior standards call for accurate awareness of inventory while it is in a warehouse. Effective warehouse design, such as storage systems that provide ready visibility to Work-in-Process can be an effective tool to achieve superior standards. Vendors such as Quantum Storage offer Steel Shelving and other products that can assist in this realm.
3. Vendor Compliance Programs
A vendor compliance program communicates to vendors exactly how you want their product to arrive. Your program should include specific labeling requirements, standard case quantities, advanced shipping notification standards, or any other policy that you believe will help your plant or factory to perform more consistently. This strategy is even more paramount your operations are distributed across a multi-site environment. Standards for any effective vendor compliance program should be developed through a collaborative effort involving procurement as well as operational personnel.
4. Organizational Culture and Diversity
Language barriers are expected to remain a problem for warehouse manages well into the foreseeable future. The International Warehouse Logistics Association (IWLA) discloses on its blog that logistics industry standards and best practices should involve deploying multilingual software and protocols that encourage managers to embrace diversity in the workplace.
The use of bar codes is one approach that can help to overcome the language barrier. As materials or Work in Process is received and scanned, these items can then be tracked and managed throughout the production process without risk of human error in typing in the wrong information as it arrives on a receiving dock.
Superior logistics planning includes cross-docking wherever possible. Cross-docking is the practice of unloading materials from an incoming vehicle and immediately loading these same materials directly onto outbound vehicles with minimal or zero warehousing interval between. Think of this as “Just-in-Time” shipping. Cross-docking is an ideal solution when product freshness is paramount. Cross-docking evolved out of a need to get perishable goods to market quickly. This procedure is one of the key inclusions an organization can make to its portfolio of standards whose function is to drive manufacturing and distribution center improvements.
Too many of today’s factories and warehouses have been neglected, improperly designed or inefficiently operated. Even if a Lean program has been implanted, the opportunity to find new areas for operational improvement likely still exists. I have presented these five concepts as a challenge for you: Is there one item here that you could implement? If so, the opportunity to make your plan for next year might be a step closer! By adopting and enforcing any of the above key operational standards, modern plant or warehouse managers will be much more likely to achieve their most optimistic operational objectives.
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