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Lean warehouse management is the process of developing warehouse operations in such a way as to bring resource consumption to a minimum without sacrificing productivity.
In other words, lean warehouse management aims to ensure your team never uses more resources than they need to when completing a specific task.
Adopting a lean approach to warehouse management can allow you to accomplish a number of things, such as:
The original “five S’s” referred to five Japanese words — Seiri, Seiton, Seiso, Seiketsu, and Shitsuke — which have been translated into English as:
Each “S” is essential for optimizing your overall warehouse processes to the point of truly being considered lean operations.
Sort refers to defining both the necessary and unnecessary processes and use of resources throughout your warehouse.
The goal is to understand specifically which aspects of your warehouse operations are holding your team back from reaching their full potential. Identifying these areas is the first step toward working to optimize them — or to eliminate them completely.
Note that, at this stage, you’re simply identifying and sorting these areas appropriately. While it may be tempting to start fixing certain issues once you’ve identified them, it’s important to focus on unearthing all areas in need of improvement before moving on to the next stage.
Here is where you’ll start optimizing your various warehouse processes — and doing away with operations that hinder your team’s efforts in any way.
Eliminating superfluous processes should be your first order of business. If you can get rid of certain parts of your workflow without sacrificing productivity levels (and, ideally, while improving productivity levels), you absolutely need to do so.
Streamlining also ensures your warehouse team can complete their essential tasks efficiently. There are a number of possible ways to do this, such as:
A dirty or cluttered warehouse isn’t conducive to productivity. (Even worse, a warehouse in ill-repair will almost certainly present a number of safety hazards.)
That said, you’ll need to ensure your warehouse is kept as clean as possible. This means:
No matter how intuitive and accessible your warehouse is “on paper,” it will all be for naught if the actual warehouse is unkempt. A spotless and accessible warehouse, on the other hand, enables maximum productivity on the part of your team.
Now is the point where you’ll begin developing concrete procedures and protocols for your warehouse team to follow at all times. These standardized procedures should include contingent workflows to be followed when things don’t go according to plan.
Some key ways to make this happen include:
Sustaining productivity demands equal parts adherence to existing protocols and continuous improvements over time.
It’s a balancing act. While you’ll likely have eliminated a number of obvious operational pitfalls already, you’ll eventually need to dig deeper.
Sustaining your approach to lean management involves:
Lean warehouse management is all about maximizing output while minimizing resource consumption. By adopting the 5S approach throughout your warehouse, your teams will always be able to work to their highest possible capacity.