Getting back on track: Implementing lean management to overcome challenges

Sept. 9, 2022
Utilizing lean management principles paves the way for operations to achieve process and culture changes ultimately leading to cost savings that can be reinvested throughout the organization.

By Keith Ingels

According to a 2022 industry report, nearly all industries now view the supply chain as strategically important — with more than 87% of respondents stating the pandemic has elevated the strategic importance of their supply chains. Yet, many companies are currently playing defense in response to rapid changes and challenges occurring over the past two years.

Market demands are leaning into more tech-driven solutions, and the enhanced perception of the supply chain is creating new opportunities. Now is the time to strategize a plan to become more proactive by reaching a culture of continuous improvement with lean management philosophies as a key focus.

Utilizing lean management principles paves the way for operations to achieve process and culture changes ultimately leading to cost savings that can be reinvested throughout the organization.

Lean management is designed to save time and money by identifying inefficiencies and implementing changes that improve workflows. It begins with a process of visualization, organization and standardization. This proven system teaches employees how to solve problems both today and moving forward. It is most effective when adopted throughout an organization, top to bottom. This includes top-level executives buying into lean philosophies and instilling creativity in their entire workforce to embrace their new roles and actively seek better solutions in delivering their customer experience.

This culture of continuous improvement can often extend beyond the warehouse floor and help identify wastes in other departments, including sales, marketing, and human resources and training.

Here are two lean-management-driven actions warehouse managers should take right now.

Access routine tasks to uncover unknown inefficiencies

Reducing the effort and difficulty of routine tasks lays the groundwork for operations to explore solutions, including connected technologies and automation.

While routine is important to developing a structure, it can be an inhibitor ¬of continuous improvement. Because of their habitual nature, routine tasks require specific focus when flagging continual improvement opportunities.

Lean management empowers employees to make improvements and take ownership of the tasks they accomplish daily. By teaching workers to spot inefficiencies, or potential errors, in their work, lean management provides practical tools to share ideas and develop impactful, long-term solutions.

A key component of lean management is kaizen, or small, consistent improvement. Employees throughout an organization are taught to identify waste in their processes and solutions and to address it by submitting kaizens to management. If a kaizen is found to be successful, it will then be implemented throughout the operation. The opportunity to impact organizational change also positively impacts culture and employee engagement, resulting in higher morale and workforce retention.

Looking outside of the box and challenging ideas can lead to more efficient processes and reduce hidden inefficiencies. Start by encouraging employees to ask themselves what they have been wanting to change but haven’t because it has always been done that way.

The efficient use of existing labor resources helps operations serve customers effectively while continuing to optimize additional resources. For example, through a lean management approach, one company found opportunities to optimize its warehouse space via doubling its racking capabilities, thus resulting in the ability to distribute products faster.

Develop a strategy for success based on past learnings

Most processes evolve rather than being planned and well-executed. As an industry with minimal room for error, it is easy to get caught up in the idea of perfection. Areas where processes evolved the past few years have proven to be a starting point to find opportunities to improve.

Using lean management teachings to start and continue to identify waste inside the warehouse helped the organization realize it was underutilizing its space. In times of uncertainty, The Raymond Corporation helped perform an audit of its current warehouse setup and identified areas for improvement. Raymond was then able to develop a new layout of the warehouse based on the turning radius of the warehouse fleet and that included more areas for smart storage and increased racking inside its warehouse and cold-storage operations.

Utilizing Raymond lean management to reduce labor, time and resources

Now is the time to take a step back and make a move toward actionable process changes that will set your operation up for success in the future. Instilling a culture of continuous improvement will ensure organizations are actively working to strengthen workplace culture, enhance efficiencies and improve quality. In short, a good lean management system is designed to teach operators how to solve problems and produce long-term sustainable improvements that directly impact the bottom line, ultimately leading to a culture of continuous improvement. Let’s get to work.

For more information, visit Raymond’s lean management resources . If you are interested in learning more about how lean practices could enhance performance across your entire organization, contact your local Solutions and Support Center.

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