Going Lean: IKEA style

For those of you who have not experienced the splendor of IKEA, right now is a great time to learn some helpful and effective facts regarding their lean tactics and safety style. IKEA is a Dutch-based retail company that originated in Sweden back in 1943. Through the years IKEA has proven itself to be one of the largest and most efficient ready-to-assemble furniture and home décor stores around, spanning the globe with over 330 locations in 38 countries. However, despite IKEA’s enormous growth and booming business, they have still managed to be one of the leanest companies around. Many may wonder how they were able to implement a lean program on such a large scale. Some key factors that have contributed to IKEA’s lean success include both innovation and consistency.

How IKEA Works

IKEA prides itself on providing customers with modern style goods and products at very affordable prices. In order to keep prices low and customers coming back, IKEA functions on a systematic approach which really involves the customer. The majority of IKEA’s products are manufactured in large bulk quantities and most furniture items are stored in flat boxes that the customer takes home to assemble. Furthermore, the layout of the IKEA retail stores is very methodical with an emphasis placed on maps. Large, easy-to-read maps are posted throughout the store to let customers know the flow of traffic as well as what products and goods can be found where.

The stores feature a top level showroom where customers are provided with order forms to fill out when they find an item they would like to purchase. Each item on the showroom floor is adorned with a red ticket if the item can be picked up in the warehouse below. The ticket includes details regarding the item as well as the item number and bin number so the product can be found quickly and efficiently. The customer then needs to copy the needed information onto the order form to identify its location within the warehouse when needed.

The main level features both a marketplace as well as a warehouse to pick up large goods from the showroom. The main level is divided into two sections the marketplace and the warehouse, each are kept separate from each other so customers are not confused. The market place is more of a “common” shopping area where customers can utilize the help of shopping carts, and items can be picked up off shelves and put into carts for checkout (unlike the showroom level). The warehouse operates as a storeroom for items that were on display in the showroom. The warehouse consists of many aisles and industrial shelving units all labeled so customers can easily locate where their items can be found.

IKEA’s Lean Mindset

In order to keep the lean mindset and things running smoothly in such a customer-driven store, IKEA implements the use of many safety tactics. One efficient safety tactic that IKEA utilizes is the use of floor tape. Throughout the entire showroom, marketplace, and warehouse the floors are marked boldly and clearly with floor marking tape. The showroom uses blue arrows along the walkways to guide customers in the right direction to keep traffic flow both efficient and orderly, while the warehouse uses floor marking tapes to indicate safety hazards as well as where to pick up items, etc.

In addition to an abundant use of floor tape, IKEA also uses quite a bit of signage. However, you will notice that all customer and information related signs are very similar with all of them featuring a blue background with white lettering.  These signs are located throughout the entire building and customers are able to become familiar with looking for blue signs when needing guidance or assistance. Other signage regarding safety hazards and such would be in a different color so they are seen separately when compared with general informational signage.

Overall, IKEA is a powerhouse of good value combined with well-implemented lean tactics. Whether your business is large or small, a few tips from IKEA’s lean mindset may go a long way to help improve  your business or warehouse as well.

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