Lean Warehouse – Lean Management Tools and Best Practices

A Lean Warehouse is created through lean management tools and techniques. This article outlines the results available through Lean Management and the tools used to achieve these lean results.

Lean Management is more than five S, although five S properly implemented will move a company dramatically forward. A lean warehouse is more than just a tidy warehouse.

Lean Warehouse and lean management tools

Read below to learn more about lean management tools and best practices.

Lean Management produces these results

  • Improved work productivity, and efficiency
  • Reduced cost by eliminating waste
  • Safer work environment
  • Improved quality
  • More environmentally-friendly work practices
  • Increased in profitability
  • Customer and employee satisfaction

Lean Warehouse Tools to achieve a lean work-place include:

  • Standardized Work – is the documentation of every discrete work element and process step for each work operation
  • 5S – is the system of parsing, sorting, organizing, and labeling everything that is useful in a warehouse. The methodology includes five steps – sort, set in order, shine, standardize and sustain
  • Kanban – is the process of continuous delivery to help teams work together more effectively. By using visual cues, invisible work is made visible, helping with its management.
  • Waste identification and elimination – also known as muda it is the opposite of value-added. When a process is identified as not adding value, it must be eliminated. There are 7 wastes according to Lean Manufacturing: overproduction, waiting/delay, unnecessary transportation, overprocessing, too much movement, too much inventory, defects/rework
  • Autonomation – is automating by adding intelligence.
  • Respect people – the Lean Management philosophy refers to the fact that workers at the gemba, the workplace, have insights that management needs to listen to. Engage people in making the lean warehouse more efficient. Empower them to raise the flag when they see problems with quality or efficiency.
  • Asaichi Meetings – are meetings that generally occur during the morning. The purpose of the meetings is to quickly identify challenges from the previous day and rally the team to resolve those issues. Asaichi meetings are great for creating a shared team purpose, culture, and accountability.
  • Empower workers to stand up for quality – at Toyota factories, a yellow line can be seen that runs along the assembly track, called the andon cord. Every worker is empowered to stop production on the line when an unresolved quality issue is found.
  • Leveled production – in a warehouse setting means that the inflows of inventory are matched as much as possible to the outflows of product. This also applies to order-picking. Work-in-process must not be allowed to accumulate in any part of the picking process, as this will create bottle-necks and work uneveness.
  • Continuous improvement – is an aspect of culture. Businesses must learn to allow for learning while doing. This means, action, problem recognition, problem-solving, and quick adjustments must form the basis of business activity.
  • One-piece flow – in the lean warehouse is order processing where there is no work in process (WIP), and each order moves through the warehouse without bunching or delays.
  • Customer-first approach
  • Total Productive Maintenance -means prevent repairs be engaging in regular maintenance.
  • Streamlining processes
  • Mistake-proofing
  • Value-stream mapping
  • A3 problem solving -is a problem-solving process used by TOYOTA to teach all their associates how to solve problems in the same way. First the background is describe (why this is a problem to be solved), the the current state data points are identified, then the desired state (future state) data points are described, then the analysis of why future state does not already exist, then countermeasures are created, the schedule for implementation is outlined, and the how and when of the follow up is documented.
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