Lean in Warehouses and Workshops

Lean manufacturing is a system used in Australia and around the globe which is commonly known to have originated in the leading Japanese company Toyota. Originally known as the Toyota Production System which broadly combined mass American manufacturing plants ideas with the sloping shelf systems used in supermarkets which helped to create systems such as the widely known JIT (just in time) system. Whilst during the Covid-19 pandemic many companies have had to move away from just in time principles to just in case principles due to supply chain challenges, this does not discredit the amazing benefits that lean brings to organisations. Whilst traditionally used in manufacturing only, lean is something that can be implemented in any workplace. In short lean eliminates waste which either allows you to reduce your prices to customers or generate a higher profit. 

What is waste in lean? 

Waste according to lean covers a range of areas but is typically broken into 7 different areas including; overproduction, inventory, defects, motion, over-processing, waiting, transportation. Essentially waste in lean results in less throughput which in turn results in your operation underutilising it’s ability. There are many books and videos which drill into a huge range of parts of lean which are help such as The Goal by Eliyahu M. Goldratt. The easy mistake in lean is to think it doesn’t apply to you or not spend the time understanding it properly which results in many people discounting it. Look into your organisation are you will start to discover the waste areas that are reducing your profitability and reducing the experience of your customer. 

How can I start in lean? 

There is a huge range of processes across lean that you can implement to improve your organisation but like most programs you look to implement it’s generally best to start simple so that your team can see the benefit before you start on the never ending journey of continuous improvement. One of the simplest areas you can start the lean journey is 5S which short for Sort, Set in Order (or straighten), Shine, Standardize and Sustain – In traditional Japanese words Seiri, Seiton, Seiso, Seiketsu, Shitsuke. Once you’ve masted 5S and you’ve proven that you can consistent achieve this, consider engaging a lean consultant to help ensure future implementations are a success. Ensure you have others in the team who are as passionate about this project as you are. 

How does this apply to my warehouse or workshop? 

Application of any new idea is always the biggest challenge. How will you execute to ensure this is a success? Lean involves implementation of physical changes as well as system changes. Some of the physical changes you might need to introduce include linemarking, lean visual boards, cleaning stations, high density drawer cabinets, Kanban trollies, logistics cages, part storage systems and many more. The team at Containit Solutions can help you with the physical storage systems you require to help you on the lean journey.