Have you Completed a Gemba Walk in Shipping and Receiving?
When thinking about gemba walks most companies immediately start thinking about the manufacturing floor. While this is certainly a key area where gemba walks can be completed, it is not the only option. In fact, it is not even the first place that should come to mind when thinking about adding gemba walks to your facilities efficiency improvement plans.
Instead, think about where everything that takes place in your facility is going to begin and end. The shipping and receiving area of any facility is one of the most critical pieces of the overall manufacturing puzzle, and is also one of the most overlooked.
Introducing a gemba walk for shipping and receiving can help to identify waste, improve efficiency and much more. Just to be clear, improvements made in and around the shipping and receiving area can directly benefit not only the actual shipping and receiving process but also for a variety of other activities that take place in the facility.
Breaking Up Shipping & Receiving
Most companies think of shipping and receiving as one activity because they are so similar and typically take place in the same general area. When it comes to completing a gemba walk for shipping and receiving, however, it is a good idea to split them up. So, plan a gemba walk for shipping and then another gemba walk for receiving. This will allow you to get a much better picture of what is going on and where improvements can be made.
Gemba Walk for Shipping: Start at the Beginning
When performing a gemba walk for shipping it is important that you begin the walk at the start of where your company is involved with the shipping process. Every facility will have different steps involved with the shipping process, but in general it is easy to determine where and when the shipping process starts.
For example, shipping in many facilities will start only after an order has been made and each item that needs to be shipped out is gathered together and boxed up. Prior to that point, the activity that is taking place is part of the fulfillment process and not the shipping process. Having the clear points of beginning will help streamline your gemba walk and allow you to focus only on the shipping process.
Gemba Walk for Shipping: Inefficiencies in the Shipping Process
Remember, gemba walks mean you need to actually get out where the work is being done. In this particular type of gemba walk you will want to go through each step of the shipping process to try to find where improvements can be made throughout the process.
The following are some key areas that almost all shipping departments will have in common that you can look at during your gemba walk. This will give you some general ideas of how you can watch for improvement opportunities. Of course, each facility is unique and you’ll have to make your own specific list of areas to watch for.
- Shipping Options – Are you shipping using a major company like UPS or the USPS? If so, evaluate whether that is the most cost effective option. Even if you handle your shipping internally, make sure this is the best method for each shipment that takes place.
- Time of Shipping – One common area of waste within shipping areas is having trucks waiting to be loaded. If you have multiple shipments going out at a similar time it can cause trucks and workers to have to wait around for their turn. Consider spreading out the timing of shipping to eliminate waste.
- Shipping Inventory – In most facilities there will be a set amount of items that need to be sent out. These items are often placed into the shipping dock until the trucks arrive. Look into how these items are stored to see if it helps improve the overall efficiency of the area. Could there be improvements?
- Equipment – Shipping requires a lot of lifting and transporting of items. Consider whether or not your facility is using the right equipment for the job. Sometimes a simple dolly is the perfect option. Other times it may be smart to install conveyer belts to help load the trucks.
- Cleanliness – Shipping areas can get quite messy quite quickly due to the fact that so many things are brought in and out during the day. If your shipping area is a mess, evaluate ways to help keep it clean so that it runs more efficiently.
Gemba Walk for Shipping: End at the End
The end of your gemba walk for shipping should be when the shipment trucks are actually leaving the facility property, not when the trucks are filled. This is important because many companies have parking lots and private roadways that may not be setup efficiently.
Follow the shipping vehicles from the time they leave the shipping area until they are off the property. Is there any type of wasted time or effort that can be fixed? Do shipping vehicles need to pass through a security checkpoint? If so, can that be streamlined? These are the type of questions you can ask yourself when finishing up your gemba walk for shipping.
Gemba Walk for Receiving: Starting Your Walk
In many cases the receiving portion of your gemba walk for shipping and receiving can begin in the same way that the shipping portion ended. Look at when and where inbound trucks are arriving in your facility. See what you can do to improve the efficiency of this process. Another important thing you can look at is the safety of the process.
Do large trucks drive through areas where pedestrians may be traveling? If so, do you have the right safety signs in place to ensure everyone knows of the risks (both pedestrians and drivers)? This type of evaluation should go from the moment trucks enter your property until they are safely parked and ready to unload their delivery.
Gemba Walk for Receiving: Efficient Receiving Process
Once the truck has arrived at the receiving dock you will likely be able to identify a variety of different areas that can be evaluated. By watching this process take place (or better yet, involving yourself in the process) you can often pinpoint ways that things can be improved.
The following are a few common items to look at specific to the receiving process:
- What’s On the Truck – The receiving team should know exactly what is on the truck well before it arrives. If they don’t, they will need to evaluate each item and determine where it needs to go, which can be a big waste of time and effort. With a little planning it is possible to unload a truck much more efficiently.
- Minimize Receiving Dock Storage – To the extent it is possible; trucks should be unloaded directly to their destination in the facility. If a truck contains inventory for the assembly line, for example, it should be taken off the truck and brought directly to that area without being kept in the receiving dock at all. This eliminates the extra steps of storage and moving things again.
- Who is Responsible – In most cases the receiving team will only be responsible for items up to a certain point. Knowing who will take responsibility for these items is essential so that they can be handed off as quickly as possible. This can also help to avoid work delays when critical items are being received at the facility.
- Packing Material – Many facilities receive a lot of items each day, all of which is shipped in boxes or other packing materials. Consider what (if anything) can be done with these materials to help reduce the waste in your facility. In some cases it may be possible to reuse the materials. In others, it may be best to have these items recycled. Whatever needs to be done with it, make sure you are dealing with the packing materials right away so that it does not cause clutter.
Dedicated Gemba Walk for Shipping and Receiving
One of the biggest things to keep in mind when planning a gemba walk for shipping and receiving is that this is a large enough part of most facilities to warrant its own gemba walk. If you combine this type of gemba walk with one for another area of the facility you will not be able to give it the attention it deserves.
In addition, since the shipping and receiving processes may be somewhat different based on what department requires the items to be sent or received. By having a gemba walk dedicated specifically to this part of the facility you will be able to get a much more accurate picture of what is going on and where improvements can be made.
One big thing to remember is that just like all other gemba walks, this one needs to be repeated on a somewhat regular basis to help ensure everything is operating at peak performance at all times.
Make sure to check out Creative Safety Supply for all your 5S, Lean and Safety product needs.
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