Lean warehousing principles can help you to visualise your warehouse as a pivot point where inventory, receiving and shipping dock management, pick & pack services and storing and safekeeping of a wide variety of goods actively supports customer and employee satisfaction. Even small changes or investments can make a huge difference in turning your warehouse into a vital cog within the supply chain, improving product quality, reducing lead time and reducing working capital.
In ‘The Skinny on Lean’ (2006), Peter Bradley identifies five steps:
- Find out what your customers expect and how you can add value to the processes in function of those expectations. In general, customers do not attach importance to extensive handling, they care about velocity.
- Map out all the different steps your goods have to go through from order to delivery, for example by using value-stream mapping. That way, you can more easily spot the activities that don’t add value and look for ways to eliminate them.
- Fluency rules! Any obstacles preventing the free flow of materials through the line of action should be removed.
- Any materials and merchandise entering the distribution network should be pulled, based on actual demand, not on hazy estimations.
- Pursue perfection. All these steps should be repeated over and over again to make sure there’s no remaining waste.