Lean Practices in a Distribution Center


Today’s Guest Blog Author: Chris Dozier is a Sales Engineer at Trilogiq USA. Chris has over 9 years in material handling consulting and solution implementation experience for manufacturing and distribution companies.

A simple walk through a warehouse or distribution center (DC) with an eye toward finding waste will uncover some easy opportunities to improve operations. Some of the most common wastes observed in warehouses are:

  1. Empty space in racks (storing air)
  2. Product placed in front of other product, causing multiple handling and movement
  3. Lack of velocity slotting (organize the warehouse to minimize part path)

Empty Space in Racks

On several occasions, DCs have approached Trilogiq asking for a warehouse evaluation because the company claims they are “running out of space”. Most are, indeed, running out of space, but not because of increased business, but because of poor storage efficiency. In many DC operations, the pallet positions in the storage rack are picking locations. Order pickers will pull parts or cartons from a full pallet. As the inventory is pulled, more open space in the rack takes over and soon a storage location designed for a full pallet is now holding a few cartons / parts and about 75 cubic feet of air. Multiply that by 1000 pallet positions and you wind up with an empty 5000 sq. ft. warehouse with 15 ft. ceilings. If a company was to expand their warehouse by 5000 sq. ft., the investment would be around $400,000 to $500,000 (assuming an $80 to $100 per sq. ft. construction cost).

Product Placed In Front of Other Product

This usually is a symptom of either improper space utilization as noted above, ineffective bin locations, or a combination of the two.  Whatever the cause, additional part movement (a waste of time and increase in damage potential) is required to get the product to its final bin location, or just to move it out of the way to get to the product it is blocking.

Lack of Velocity Slotting

The longer it takes an order picker to fulfill an order, the higher the cost to the company – eroding margin. Make the part pick path as short as possible. Put the fastest moving (highest velocity) items closest to the packing station. The slower a product moves, the further down the aisle it is stored.

Lean Solutions

How can you address some of these issues in your DC? Using flow racks located on the floor level under existing pallet rack, you can regain use of existing warehouse space and reduce total part path travel. This in turn reduces pick time. Making this one small change can easily address some of the low-hanging fruit on your DC lean journey. Flow racks are easy to implement and have immediate positive financial, efficiency, and safety impact.

Want to learn how Trilogiq has helped other distribution centers? Download our case study!