Lean Warehousing: "Improve warehouse productivity"

Lean Warehousing: "Improve warehouse productivity"

The warehouse function is usually that part of your business which operates behind the scenes supporting picking, packing and despatching customer orders. It generates enormous attention when the orders are not being delivered on time and customer relationships are being impacted.

To understand the real worth of your warehouse operation and the contribution it can make to improving customer satisfaction, an analysis needs to be undertaken to identify performance road blocks and implement steady change to remove the noise. By applying the principles of lean warehousing, your organisation will be able to unlock the hidden potential for improvement, utilising resources, processes and equipment to their capability. The core focus is to remove delays throughout each process and increase the order fulfillment level that drives customer satisfaction.

Lean warehousing: "Which functions can be improved?"

Traditional warehousing is a linear flow of tasks and functions that are all dependent on each other to provide the highest order fulfilment levels. Products move through a supply chain that includes: supplier delivery processing in recieving, stock put-away, stock replenishment, order picking and final despatch to your customer. Throughout this supply chain process, each stage is reviewed to ensure that the performance is optimised through the removal of and waste. Following is a list of these stages for a typical warehouse operation and questions that we would ask to better understand your business:

  1. Warehouse receiving function
    1. Is there a layout of the operation?
    2. Does the operation have the right equipment to load and unload safely?
    3. Is the inbound delivery schedule working?
    4. What is the order processing cycle and is it acceptable?
    5. Which deliveries do not conform to your receiving standards?
    6. Have resources been deployed to balance requirements with deadlines?
  2. Warehouse put-away process
    1. What is the standard for stock identification?
    2. Are putaway cycle times within your acceptance level?
    3. How are resources being deployed to tasks?
    4. What is the error rate for put away items?
    5. Are there process delays due to equipment availability?
    6. How many items cannot be found
  3. Stock replenishment process
    1. How does the process work?
    2. Does the ERP or WMS trigger replenishment tasks?
    3. Are the replenishment trigger points working as expected?
    4. Is there too much inventory being moved, then returned to location?
    5. Is the equipment right for the replenishment task?
    6. What is the replenishment cycle time?
  4. Warehousing stock and location control 
    1. Is there ownership of this function?
    2. How is inventory reconciled?
    3. Is the system being updated to remove blank locations?
    4. What is the warehouse sorage utilisation level?
    5. Is perishable stock being rotated to minimise inventory loss?
    6. Are all of the location labels operational?
  5. Order taking and release process 
    1. What tools are being used to undertake these tasks?
    2. What is the level of systems integration, WEB, ERP, WMS?
    3. How is the decision making process working for prioritising orders?
    4. Is order release schedule batched or dynamic?
    5. What rules are applied to drive the release process?
    6. What is the ration of auto release versus manual release?
  6. Warehousing picking methods 
    1. How are the work loads allocated and managed?
    2. How efficient are the picking processes?
    3. What is the order cycle time for picking?
    4. Does inventory slotting change or is it static?
    5. What technology is being used to drive picking? Voice, RF, paper?
    6. Does the picking process conform to OH&S requirements?
  7. Kit or order assembly 
    1. Is there a dedicated area for assembly?
    2. How are components allocated for assembly?
    3. Is the assembly process outsourced?
    4. How is inventory and what is the accuracy?
    5. Where are the sub assemblies located and how are they retrieved?
    6. What equipment is being used for the assembly process?
  8. Materials handling equipment 
    1. Does the warehouse use the correct equipment?
    2. What is the utilisation level for your forklifts and stock pickers?
    3. Should the equipment be owned or leased?
    4. Is the maintenance cost increasing?
    5. How do you assess the right type of equipment?
  9. Storage strategies for warehousing 
    1. Is there a stock location plan?
    2. Should inventory be stored by customer?
    3. Should inventory be zoned based on frequency or volume?
    4. Do we use carton live storage for fast movers?
    5. How is bulk stock stored and is it centralised by sku?
    6. Where is split case stored and how is it replenished?
  10. Sortation systems to support distribution 
    1. Is there a floor plan of the sortation operation?
    2. How are resources being deployed to support daily sortation?
    3. Is the sortation manual or automated?
    4. How are orders or loads consolidated?
    5. What is the number of lost cartons or pallets?
  11. Export order process 
    1. How are consignments prepared for despatch?
    2. Is there ownership for document creation?
    3. How are export load plans developed?
    4. What is the cycle time for export orders?
    5. Is the containerisation outsourced or in house?
    6. What is the mix of air or sea consignments?
  12. Shipping and distribution 
    1. Are export orders meeting vessel or airline schedules?
    2. How is despatch planning organised and managed?
    3. What tools are used to support the booking process?
    4. Are local deliveries outsourced or in house?
    5. What are the Line haul requirements and delivery schedule?
    6. How are orders tracked for linehaul?
  13. Reverse logistics
    1. Is the process documented?
    2. In what state are goods returned?
    3. What are the authorisation protocols for returns?
    4. Are resources allocated or are they fixed?
    5. How is damaged stock managed, isolated and written off?
    6. What is the cycle time for the returns process?

Lean warehousing: "Results of improvements"

By following a structured program of planning, evaluating, implementing and monitoring, we have proudly contributed to delivering change and improvement in a number warehouse operations. Through tailored assessments and implementation programs, processes have been improved and supported by integrated supply chain technologies for further warehouse optimisation. Here are some improvement deliverables:

  • Improved cycle time within recieving function
  • Implemented EDI functionality to integrate ERP orderflow
  • WMS implementation delivers centralised control
  • RF scanning to support all aspects of warehouse processing
  • Implementation and modification of sortation systems
  • Warehouse layout modification improves goods flow
  • Reduction in overall supply chain costs
  • Implemented standardised performance metrics