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Lean Warehouse

Working within LEAN parameters involves standardising processes so that waste is minimised without affecting productivity. When it comes to warehousing one of the biggest sources of waste can often be the time taken to locate a product and take it to the next processing stage. By operating under LEAN and 5S principles you can cut this type of waste to a minimum or eliminate it entirely.

Using a very simple system of aisle markers and labels combined with more advanced methods of indicating stock amounts and next steps can make a very noticeable difference to how efficiently you work within your warehouse. To discover what the 3 keys to LEAN warehousing are, how to use colour to make workflow more cohesive and why identification is so important read our useful warehouse effiiciency guide.

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Warehouse Efficiency and Effective Identification


If you work within a warehouse location you will no doubt be aware of the need to make operations as efficient as possible. All aspects of your business will ultimately rest on how well work flows through the warehouse and you will be heavily targeted to ensure all tasks are performed in a timely manner.

Using LEAN or 5S principles as your guide you will be amazed at the levels of improvement that can be made, even in an already optimised workplace.

Product identification is one of the most important day to day elements of working within a warehouse, however before staff even get that far there are some simple steps that can be undertaken that will have an immediate impact.

Signboards should be set up around your warehouse to indicate different areas and departments and provide operatives with an instant understanding of traffic flow. Workplaces, lines and processes should all be clearly marked with large, easy-to-read signs. Custom variations can be created specifically for your location as required. Use different colours to create a visual route map and ensure major signs can be seen from the warehouse entrance.

The 3 Keys to Lean Warehousing


When setting up warehouse racking and organising where products should be placed there are 3 keys that must be considered:

  • Where?

  • What?

  • How Many?


  • Where concerns itself with the location of the items in question and takes into account larger identification criteria, such as district and sub-district. Think about where a product will be going next and plan to store it in a sensible place bearing that information in mind. Aisle and bay markers will show the location of a racking unit and are easy to read and understand.

    What looks at shelf and product identification. Ensure all items are sufficiently labelled and use ticket holders to mark specific shelf locations. In manufacturing sites it is also a good idea to use labels such as wipe-clean magnetic markers to show where the item should go next under normal operations. This will cut down on confusion and lost time. Match the colour of the label to the colour of the relevant signboard to give a further visual clue.

    How Many will indicate the maximum and minimum amount of stock to be held in a particular location. LEAN working is all about having just the right amount necessary for the work at hand so holding too much or not enough stock is a clear indicator that something is going wrong. Use magnetic racking strips in different colours to create visual levels showing at a glance what stock is available and if you have the correct amount.

    Using 5S Colours and other Useful Information


    When it comes to deciding where to store goods it’s a good idea to group them and assign a colour to each. Mark racking with these colours using write-on tags and match them to work processes or locations elsewhere as required. Containers and/or the items themselves can also be marked with the same colour.

    Poor signage and labelling is often a major contributory factor for items being lost, mis-picked or general warehouse untidiness. Continue to evaluate the effectiveness of any system you put in place and make changes as soon as you deem an element to be underperforming. Make sure every product stored has a home “address” and stays there until required.

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