The advent of concepts and terms like "just-in-time," "kaizen," and "Six Sigma" led to a new way of warehousing—where time is critical and efficiencies have become the focal point of any operation. This culture of continuous modification swept the warehousing industry and now has given way to lean logistics: the constant improvement to reduce costs, time, and inventory.
Fully embracing lean logistics is a time-consuming process, but once you establish a process, you will be well on your way to organizational improvement.
Standardize Your Processes
Today's warehouses are complex—with a mix of products, people, and equipment moving around at an alarming pace. Managers are more like conductors for an orchestra than someone simply telling people where they should be and when. With this in mind, it is easy to see why it is so important to standardize the warehousing process.
When we create a standard process, it helps all of the warehouse players know where they need to be and what they need to be doing. Managers can document these processes and make them available for everyone to see—which reminds associates of these standards daily.
Outside of associates and managers having a more structured process for what they are doing, a few benefits to standardizing your process include:
- Documentation of the process for shifts
- Reductions in variability
- Easier training for new operators
- Reductions in injuries and strain
- A baseline for improvement activities
Creating and documenting a repeatable process is critical to any future operation improvements in your warehouse.
Take Baseline Measurements
Once a standardized process is in place, you must establish baseline measurements—like a control group in an experiment. As you modify your process, the baseline will help to show if you have actually improved.
While you typically complete baseline measurements manually, you can automate most regular measurements afterward. Documenting these measurements and comparing them to the baseline allows you to move the baseline forward as you achieve better metrics—creating a chain of continuous improvement.
The baseline measurements will help you set a starting point, but consistent improvement is a never-ending process.
Improve the Processes
In a lean warehouse, improvement must be continuous. The systems and processes in place must be agile enough to adapt quickly to meet the ever-changing needs of the warehouse. Companies that become complacent will have their processes degrade, and eventually, cease to exist. You do not want your organization to be one of those!
The ultimate goal of moving to a lean process is to go from being reactive to proactive. Be predictive, and then adaptive.
To Sum It All Up
Embracing lean logistics is more than a simple change in operations, it starts within the cultural fabric of a company. Making continuous improvement part of your organizational culture empowers everyone to take ownership of a more efficient, streamlined operation.
If you are ready to fully embrace the philosophies of lean warehousing, there's no better time than the present to get started! Download our free eBook below to learn about the 7 key areas you'll need to master in order to simplify your operations and reduce your warehouse costs.