Tuesday, April 16, 2013

10 Awesome Effects Single Face Racks Will Have

Last week we got our first single facing rack for picking. Where we used to have whole cases now we have single bottles. On its face this seems like one of those operational improvements that only an operational nerd would like. Well, that's probably true. It also seems rather incremental. We used to put whole cases in a rack, now we put a single bottle, big whoop. It doesn't seem like that much. That's not the case. This is huge.

This is one of those rare incremental lean improvements that will have tremendous and far-reaching effects. You don't get big leaps like this often in operations. When you kick off a lean transformation you get major improvements by going from batch to flow and implementing pull systems like marketplaces with kanbans. Those usually have huge space-savings and labor-cost improvements. Jaw-dropping numbers, like our first year labor savings of over 30%. From then on the changes have smaller bottom line effects. Sometimes they feel nonexistent. (We've had years after our initial lean transformation where our labor cost as a percent of sales went up, not down.) Sometimes it can feel like two steps forward one step back. This, on the other hand, is like twenty steps forward.

We can't single face every product—yet. Maybe 150 of our 800 items to start with. That number will go up over time, though, as we figure out how to make more jars flow and not break in the rack, unprotected by their case.

10 Effects Single Face Racks Will Have

1. Cases are usually 3 products wide. That was the width of a pick slot. Now a pick slot is one product wide. We just cut our floor space for this section by two thirds.

2. Since pickers only need to pick the first product and never have to reach back into a case we don't need to size the racks to have reach-in space. The vertical space between shelves can shrink. We can fit more shelves in, perhaps up to 25% more. We just cut our floor space by another 25%.

3. Combine the above effects and this section's pickers will walk 75% less.

4. We can add hundreds of new foods to the pick line without moving to a new building (we still have back stock space to work out first).

5. Pickers won't have to sort in the box (visually) for the next product.

6. Pickers can grab a product out of this rack more easily and quickly than out of a case.

7. Pickers can get visual cues about address slots since the products have color and shape variation, unlike cardboard boxes.

8. Pickers can spot problems like dents and leaks more easily.

9. Pickers won't have to manage the recycling of cardboard boxes.

10. The rack is faster to adjust so we can add items, delete items, and move items more cheaply. Now a fast mover can move to an easier pick location quickly. We can re-locate a super fast mover to the front of the pick line so it's picked and done and doesn't pass through all the pick stations. Or we can spread fast movers in the holiday so we even the workload at pick.

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