Advice and Assistance for Manufacturers.
When the snow season has passed and it’s no longer painful to spend time outside in the open air, it’s time to drag out the patio furniture, put away the snow blower and shovels, and, while you’re at it, do some cleaning and organizing. You know, take care of all that stuff that accumulated during the winter months… old and broken household items, things you don’t really need anymore but it was convenient to just store them rather than dispose of them?
I suspect that your warehouse might also be suffering from a moderate to severe case of “accumulitis” and might benefit from some spring cleaning. And spring, in this case, is not necessarily April and May. Each new product release, any product retirement, or simply a change in the level or composition of inventory due to seasonal patterns or demand changes, offers an opportunity to do some cleaning and organizing.
One of the key principles of lean thinking is the identification of what has value, and another is being clean and organized (to avoid wasted effort). Applying these principles to the warehouse in a “spring cleaning” event qualifies as a lean initiative.
Every warehouse has some obsolete inventory tucked away somewhere – parts and products that have no real value and may even have been taken off the books but never disposed of. Get rid of them. If they are truly worthless, perhaps they can be sold for scrap or recycled in some manner. If not, bite the bullet and haul them to the landfill.
Are there other parts or products that have some value but not enough to justify the continued storage and handling? There are lots of outlets for outdated items with some residual value. Have you noticed the recent proliferation of surplus, job-lot, and salvage stores lately? There are also a number of web-based outlets for industrial parts and materials. You might also put your engineers and designers to work and maybe they can come up with a creating “outside of the box” way to reuse surplus parts and materials.
Whatever means you use to clear out useless or near-useless stuff, take the opportunity to reorganize the warehouse to make good use of the space you’ve freed up. Modern warehouse management systems optimize the use of space for higher utilization and/or convenience and reduced handling. Even without the benefit of such a system, you can likely improve the utility of the warehouse by rearranging stock location and improving put-away / picking processes.
Use each “spring cleaning” opportunity to take a fresh look at what’s in the warehouse and how it’s organized. Not only will you make better use of the space and make warehouse operations more efficient, you can also take credit for a successful lean initiative.