LEAN practices are all about reducing waste; however in the past, LEAN practices typically only applied to the production and manufacturing of standardized products. Warehousing and distribution, on the other hand, are service industries that are very far from standardized because the customer is able to choose from thousands of items. With this view, how can the same LEAN practices used in manufacturing apply to your warehousing facility?
8 Types of Waste Found in Warehousing & Distribution
When you look at the waste found in manufacturing, you will see similar types of waste in warehousing and distribution. According to the National Association of Wholesaler-Distributors (NAW), “Since warehousing is nothing more than managing space and time, reducing waste starts with identifying the poor use of both.” In NAW’s book Lean Warehousing they describe 8 types of waste found in warehousing,
- Overproduction in manufacturing results in wasted materials. In warehousing, an excess of inventory has the same result.
- Waiting is a waste of time. This is as true in warehouse operations as it is in production.
- Unnecessary movement of cargo is a major source of waste in materials handling.
- Over processing is a waste in production – in warehousing it is over checking.
- Poor inventory control represents waste, particularly when stock-outs are frequent.
- Movement is a waste when it involves hunting for tools, or stored items that cannot be located.
- Defective parts waste production; in warehousing, errors result in waste.
- Unused employee creativity represents a waste of human resources.
Once you have identified the causes of waste in your facility, you can move forward and apply LEAN practices.
Equipment to Help Facilitate LEAN Practices for Warehousing
Managing space, time, and inventory to reduce waste is a large task. That’s why investing in the right equipment solutions will help you facilitate LEAN practices. Depending on your particular needs, there are a variety of equipment solutions including,
- Vertical lift modules (VLM): The vertical lift modules store small, medium, and large parts in the least amount of floor space possible.
- Vertical Carousels: The vertical carousels maximize the storage of small parts in bins.
- Horizontal carousels: The horizontal carousels increase picking efficiency by allowing for batch picking.
Each of these machines operates on the goods-to-person principle: delivering stored items directly to the user. This eliminates the time workers spend searching for items. In addition, the VLM and vertical carousels have an ergonomically positioned work counter that helps to reduce injuries related to bending, twisting, and reaching for stored items.
Other equipment designed to maximize the use of space in your warehouse includes,
- Compact pallet racks: The compact pallet racks condense the floor space required for storage by 50% while maintaining accessibility.
- Mezzanines: The mezzanines use vertical space to add another level of floor space to your warehouse.
- Specialty vertical carousels: The specialty vertical carousels store items like rolls of textiles, tires, hanging garments, wire spools, and print cylinders.
Contact the Storage Experts at Southwest Solutions Group for Help
Applying LEAN practices and investing in the right equipment starts with first identifying the areas of your warehouse that are creating the most waste. Southwest Solutions Group’s material handling experts can help. We offer a variety of equipment solutions that will help your warehouse and distribution center become more efficient and sustainable. Contact us by phone at 1-800-803-1083 or send us a message.