With so many logistics companies competing to show how they’re faster, better and smarter than the next guy, it can be difficult to know whether common phrases used by 3rd party logistics companies are just clever marketing tools or actual logistics terminology.
Although the term “lean warehousing” certainly sounds like a marketing device, it’s actually a really important logistics philosophy that’s all about doing things more efficiently with the help of Big Data.
The Elements of a Lean Warehouse
A lean warehouse is a warehouse that’s functioning at peak efficiency in each and every area of operations. That means it’s a lean, green, minimal overhead machine. But it’s not a simple task to create a lean warehouse, in fact, it’s an ongoing process that constantly requires monitoring and review to ensure that it is still performing up to snuff.
These are the most important elements of a lean warehouse:
- Waste reduction. The number one goal of a lean warehouse is to reduce waste. But that doesn’t just mean reducing broken merchandise or theft or busted shipping containers, it also means reducing energy usage by investing in more fuel-efficient equipment and better assigning labor to the right teams to ensure the right skills are available at the right times of the day.
- Efficient movement. You might not think much about how you move about your workspace, but a lean 3rd party logistics warehouse manager spends a lot of time pondering how their employees walk. Does it take fewer steps and less time to cross the floor from here to here, or from here to there? Would it be more efficient to move the pick area 10 feet to the right?The fewer steps each worker takes, the less time they spend not interacting with shipments, and when packages absolutely have to get out to the customer yesterday, there’s no time to lose.
- Ideal inventory levels. Another giant time sink is restocking the warehouse. Not only are you sometimes left waiting for a delivery to show up, but several people are often needed to make the actual transfer from the truck to the warehouse. If optimal levels of a particular item can be determined, you’ll not restock until absolutely necessary, saving that labor glut for as few uses as possible, but this also avoids keeping too much inventory on hand that can spoil, go out of style or simply linger on the shelf indefinitely.Using historical data, your 3rd party logistics warehouse can help you determine how much of an item to keep in the lean warehouse.
In a sector that’s constantly seeking faster, more accurate deliveries, lean aims to be the solution for every type of 3PL warehouse. No matter what you’re selling, you can benefit from the basic principles behind lean. After all, who doesn’t want a more efficient and better functioning machine behind their shipments?