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Too Much Inventory and Seven Other Warehouse Wastes

Eight common sources of waste plague most warehouses. Chris Kushmaul helps distribution center and warehouse leaders identify and eliminate waste.

(Boonton, NJ, July 1, 2011) — When Chris Kushmaul visits a DC, he finds the fat immediately. Whether it's too much inventory or a line of trucks burning fuel and time, Kushmaul sees DCs committing the same mistakes over and over.

Kushmaul is vice president of lean facilities at LeanCor. LeanCor preaches against the "8 Wastes of the Warehouse," and Kushmaul says these mistakes are obvious to the trained eye.

One of the most common sources of waste is overprocessing. Like overproduction, overprocessing means you're doing more than you need to. For example, you might have the picker perform three quality checks before passing an order to the packaging groups, which are required to perform two more quality checks.

Many warehouse processes are filled with extra steps and riddled with redundant checks. While the goal is to reduce errors, the confusion caused by overprocessing leads to errors.

Another common waste is waiting.

Waiting can happen anywhere - with machines, materials, information, suppliers, customers, or employees. One common source of waiting at DCs is in the parking lot, where truck drivers often queue up at the same time.

"Drivers love to get their load first thing in the morning," Kushmaul says.

That means most DCs have a traffic jam of trucks waiting to be loaded. This creates staffing challenges for the warehouse — which is forced to overstaff for busy times and then let workers sit idle later in the day.

The solution is to schedule drivers to arrive throughout the day. If they show up at the wrong time, they don't get their loads.

"You've got to give drivers window times, then manage them," Kushmaul says.

Six additional warehouse wastes are covered in the June issue of Distribution Center Management.

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