Manufacturers and distributors are constantly having to reevaluate their warehouse management strategies and processes in order to stay on top of their game and surpass the competition. As competition rises in the industry, companies cannot afford to waste any time or money on ineffective processes or solutions. While there are always new strategies emerging (some useful, some not so much), many manufacturers are turning back to time-tested strategies to improve their efficiency and increase their chances for success. Of those strategies, lean manufacturing is emerging as the key player among today’s most influential warehouses.
Lean manufacturing has helped manufacturing companies all over the world increase efficiency, reduce overhead costs, improve productivity and increase profitability. Companies wishing to tighten their warehouse management efforts would benefit from implementing lean strategies in their warehouse environment. While not guaranteed to shoot you to the top, these strategies can help you streamline warehouse management processes and improve your productivity dramatically. Keep the following tips in mind as you incorporate lean practices into your warehouse management strategy:
- Create a value stream map. In order to understand where you need to start the implementation of lean concepts in the warehouse, you need to identify all of the specific actions (both value added and non-value added) needed to take a product through the entire manufacturing process. This map follows the production path from beginning to end, showing a visual representation of every process included in the material and information flows. Most of the time, however, the warehouse is featured on the value stream map as simply an inventory triangle and shipping. This can make it challenging to identify and evaluate the waste that is occurring within the warehouse. That’s why it is necessary to show the process within the warehouse, including important operations such as receiving, picking, putaway, staging, preparation, truck loading, and shipping.
- Identify waste. Now that you have a clear picture of how your warehouse works and operates, take some time to identify the largest areas of waste in your supply chain. Are your employees wasting time walking back and forth to retrieve items in the warehouse? Brainstorm ways to streamline the process to eliminate unnecessary foot traffic. This could include reorganizing your warehouse so high volume products are easily accessible or investing in a mobile barcoding and label printing solution to cut down on the time it takes to retrieve labels.
- Automate manual processes. Automation is a huge component of lean manufacturing and warehousing. Take a look at the areas that are suffering productivity wise and brainstorm ways to automate the process. Warehouse management software applications, such as our Sage 100 mobile app Scanco Warehouse, and barcoding technology can help you automate anything from data entry to putaway to barcode labeling. Take the time to see what will work for your unique situation and commit to following through with your plan.
- Identify opportunities to reduce lead time and processing time. No matter what state your warehouse is in, there is always room for improvement. Take a look at some of the most common areas manufacturers and distributors focus their efforts on:
- Reduction in truck loading time
- Reduction in time spent checking inventory location and status
- Reliability issues with machinery
- Reduction in material handling time in the picking and putaway process
By implementing lean strategies in the warehouse, you could reduce order processing time by 50% and lead time by 25%. Don’t settle your current state of affairs. Make the effort to improve your situation, and you will begin to experience significant improvements in no time at all.
Stay tuned to our blog for more warehouse management tips and tricks, and let us know if you have any suggestions. We’d love to help you improve your warehouse management by addressing specific problems you are experiencing in the warehouse.