We’ve covered how quality begins at the receiving dock with the aide of inspection of incoming deliveries which should ensure quality down stream to the customer. Ah, but maintaining quality in a warehouse has many obstacles that can throw you off coarse.
FIFO. You’ve heard it before, First In, First Out. This is the backbone of your operation. You want to supply your customers with the freshest, newest, best condition product off your shelves. Following FIFO allows you to turn your product and keep them from getting stale on the rack or worse, out of code. To support FIFO you need quality inventory control and a quality WMS to help keep inventory visible until it leaves the warehouse. Losing inventory in a warehouse creating dead inventory will add up to major dollars over time and hurt your bottom line. If you are a small operation and don’t have a good WMS use the old T method. Store replenishment product directly above the pick location. Go up as many levels as you can and then if more storage space is still needed branch out at the top rack like a T. It should be easy to keep track of inventory this way since you know it’s localized. Along with this use different colored labels to tag your inventory by the month, (Red-January, Blue-Feb, etc) and this will allow you to know the oldest product in your T.
DEBRIS. By definition it’s the remains of anything broken down or destroyed. This stuff is usually trash, made up of shrink wrap, paper, backing from labels, chips and fragments of wooden pallets. It is necessary to make sure you have enough trash cans distributed around the warehouse to encourage the deposit of debris and strongly encourage its pick up. Shrink wrap on the floor can be sucked up by forklifts and over time melt and literary gum up the works. I was presented a bag of this stuff once by my forklift tech and would use it as a visual in safety and sanitation meetings. The plastic shrink wrap can also be a money maker as long as you have a bailing machine. There are companies that will buy it by the bale and the money could be used to reward the warehouse staff for keeping the floors free of debris with a monthly lunch or a very nice holiday party. The buyers need to help you with the wooden pallets by including on their purchase orders the acceptable condition of pallets on delivery. Be up front and hold the position if you deliver bad pallets to us, there will be no pallet exchange. You may want to look into CHEP as a means of ensuring you receive in on good quality pallets and plastic pallets are now a viable alternative. Remember, If you keep it looking clean, people don’t look further!
EQUIPMENT. What good is following fifo and cleaning up if you can’t move pallets around the warehouse? You must keep equipment maintained, not only to ensure you have equipment when you need it, but for safety and to keep the warehouse free of leaks and puddles of hydraulic fluid or oils. Nothing makes a warehouse look bad than fluid tracked from the dock to the racks not to mention it’s also unsafe and could cause forklift skids or staff slip and falls. How does your battery room look? Floor free of stains from acid spill over? Is there adequate ventilation to keep the area free of fumes from the charging batteries. Chargers should have closed and locked access doors and no exposed wires. Most important, make sure the eye wash station is fully operational as well.
WASHROOM. This is also another important area especially if you are a food warehouse. There should be signs to remind everyone to wash their hands before returning to their work station. There needs to always be a supply of soap and towels or blower of some kind to facilitate drying. There is nothing worse than to have a visitor tell you there’s not soap or towels in the washroom. The appearance of the washroom also speaks volumes of how you present your warehouse so avoid the trash can from overflowing with used paper towels and dirty facilities.
GO FOR A WALK. Get up from the desk and go for a walk around the warehouse. Some people like to use the hybrid name, Gemba-Kaizen-Deming-Sigma walk. If it’ll give you purpose or just help to remember to do it you can call it what ever you want. Give it a fun name or functional name, A warehouse walk, safety walk, I need exercise walk, Just get up and walk. You need to see what’s going on and sitting behind that desk , just checking the numbers on the computer screen only gives you a very small picture of what’s really going on. What ever philosophy you use at your facility, be it Gemba, Sigma, Lean, Kaizen, Deming, SWOT or common sense make sure you all speak the same language to discuss issues. The one book I do recommend to make sure you all are talking about the same thing is the APICs Dictionary. It’d be a great tool to use and excuse to have some training for the staff and cover this together and develop talent within your organization.
Look, if quality was so easy, everybody would do it. Love to hear your comments.