Warehouses aren’t in the business of manufacturing, so it might seem irrelevant to apply the precepts of Lean Manufacturing to the logistics industry. However, says author Jeff Maree, there are surprising bottom-line advantages to managing a “lean warehouse.”
Lean manufacturing seeks to reduce errors, improve efficiency, and add value – the famous Japanese principle of kaizen, or continuous improvement. Maree, writing in Manufacturing Transformation, outlines five ways to apply the same principle in warehouse management.
- Technology – Barcoding, RFID, AS/RS, and other such systems reduce errors and improve efficient flow.
- Touch – Well-planned and implemented technology reduces the number of times an item is touched. Fewer touches means lower costs.
- Racks – The right storage solution will dovetail with the right technology solution to maximize space utilization, reducing real estate costs.
- Just in time – Tracking inflow and outflow over time lets lean warehouses maintain inventory at just-in-time levels, to keep storage use optimal.
- Partners – From software suppliers to storage providers, the right professional partners will support the lean warehouse in its goal of continuous improvement.
Manufacturers are reaping the financial benefits of lean-manufacturing productivity. Shouldn’t warehouse managers enjoy the same kinds of gains?
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