There are endless possibilities in engineering innovations within logistics. Tools like warehouse visual systems were––and are––completely changing the warehousing sphere as we know it. Getting to work with this concept has allowed our engineers to bring the lean principles learned from Japanese Sensei's right into the heart of our Kenco operations.
One tool our engineering team is particularly passionate about is visual management. Just as important to warehousing as it is to manufacturing, visual management (or control) allows us to embrace a holistic approach to every function in the warehouse. It's a way to convey standard practices to everyone on a floor with key visual cues (lights, signs, numbers, egress paths, etc.)
You'll need to adjust visual management practices to your specific company needs, but there are 2 central tenets that drive visual control. Master these, and you're well on your way to an organized warehouse that will rival those of our Japanese "5 S" counterparts.
Tenet 1: Develop Visual Standard Work
When you envision your procedures, how much of your working knowledge "translates" to the instruction given to new staff members? Are they buried from day one in pages and pages of corporate speak? Are they spoken down to like children who don't know the basics of your mutual industry? The longer a rule or procedure is, the more room there is for it to be forgotten or misinterpreted. Precision dictates you deliver the most concise version of what you need, period.
Without a concise, centralized set of procedures, each staff member and manager will add their own spin to processes. Eventually, this becomes the warehouse version of a telephone game. Compensating for all of those differences slows down your workflow and opens cracks in your efficiency armor where errors and delays can seep in. That puts negative pressure on the system and delivers a bad experience for everyone––from your pickers on through to the end customer. Finger-pointing, blame, exasperation, and short tempers are the norm here, but only if you fail to give your procedures the attention and maintenance they deserve.
In short, it's important to get everyone on the same page, while making sure it really is a page.
Tenet 2: Accessible Tools Kept at Point-of-Use
Accessibility refers to the average staff member's ability to refer to those procedures (the ones you've just made sure are clear and concise) in a situation where he or she might not understand how to proceed. If your procedures are currently kept in a filing cabinet, drawer, or binder, they're not just hard to get to! They're likely too long to read and are really worthless to your staff. Consider the posters you need to legally display in your break-room: if notoriously long-winded state and federal agencies can condense their important points to a fast visual reference sheet, you should be able to as well. When you empower each staff member to research and take action quickly in adverse situations, they often don't need to get a manager involved. This means the associate is empowered to solve their own job-related problems, which frees up their supervisor's time. These time savings add up, and omit a lot of anxiety and waiting from your workflow on all levels––all from something as simple as posting concise procedures in an easily-accessible area.
We can usually trace areas of inefficiency to a failure in understanding or implementing procedure somewhere along the way. When it's such an easy fix, letting issues like these continue just isn't an option.
Visual control gives us peace of mind, better safety for our staff and business, and a way to quickly research and eliminates the causes of problems as they occur.
It's Time to Crack Down on Word-of-Mouth Processes
Today at Kenco, we need to name and shame any remaining "hand-me-down" ways. Vague standards are the fastest route to misunderstandings and mistakes, and visual control gives us the polar opposite: a bright spotlight on all we do, with accountability distributed to each and every staff member. Strengthening our visual management ensures efficiency-chilling phrases like, "That's just the way we've always done it" are completely removed from our conversations. Managers can't––and shouldn't––be the only ones responsible for making Kenco the best company it can be; visual control disperses responsibility evenly to allow it to "take root" and grow organically within an organization.
Are you ready to start manifesting these 2 important tenets in your own organization? Kenco's Lean Warehousing guide will give you a deeper dive into actionable tips that will help you revolutionize your workflows and support staff cohesion, cooperation, and clarity throughout your warehouse team.