Just-in-time delivery is a process that’s grown in popularity lately among warehouses, manufacturing facilities, and delivery providers alike.

The advantages of just-in-time are numerous and can help a number of warehouses no matter what industries they serve, but adopting these processes can be time-consuming and, more often than not, confusing and unclear.

If your warehouse is considering moving to a just-in-time delivery system, or if you already have and need some ways to help streamline the process and keep everything working like it should, here’s a few tips to help keep your warehouse…well, on time:

 

Keep operations focused and transparent

The biggest hurdle to prompt deliveries, whether in a just-in-time process or otherwise, is getting bogged down by process. Too many warehouses echo the common refrain of nobody knowing who’s in charge of what, not understanding what the next step for an item being picked for delivery might be, or simply having too many cooks in the kitchen. This doesn’t have to be done across the board (as that can be unnecessary in many cases and time-consuming in nearly all of them) but identifying the processes that come up most often during the item handling process (picking, packaging, shipping) and boiling them down to their bare essentials can really help keep things on schedule.

 

Improved scheduling

In any just-in-time process, be it manufacturing, materials handling, or delivery, scheduling is crucial for keeping everything on time and providing a clear timetable for where everything needs to be. Examine your delivery and/or manufacturing processes to break them down into a handful of steps, and then set time tables for when (and how) each step needs to be accomplished. For example, when an order comes in, you could break down when the item is picked from shelves and then set an ideal timetable for when it would have to be taken to shipping/receiving to get safely packaged, and how long that should take until it gets on the truck, and so on.

 

Kanban card method

The original developer of the just-in-time method, Toyota, uses a process they refer to as kanban (which roughly translates to ‘billboard’ in Japanese). This method uses a series of cards to track the flow of items through a factory or warehouse, whether they’re being manufactured or just boxed up to be shipped out. The cards are typically used to indicate a shortage/depletion of certain items or a delay in processing by marking an empty slot on pallet racks or being left at an area where items are beginning to pile up before they can be shipped out. Using these cards can allow you to better understand where hangups may be in your picking processes or to identify items that may be selling through faster than expected. (They also don’t have to be literal cards – auto-generated emails or other digital communications can be used instead to save space and materials.)

 

Optimized storage

Similarly, the implementation of just-in-time delivery and handling means you’ll have to try a little harder to keep your storage worked out and tidied up. Things like pallet racks, steel shelving, and industrial shelving will need to be organized and used to the best of their ability according to product demand and your current processes. You may need to bring in an extra shelf or two, or at least relocate some of the ones you currently have, but the time and labor savings in the long run will be more than worth it.

 

Involve your staff in planning

Of course, even the most well-thought out processes will always need a little refinement now and again, and nobody will be able to help with this better than your staff on the floor. At regularly scheduled intervals, talk to the workers most involved with your just-in-time delivery process (item pickers, packaging, shipping/receiving, etc) and see if they have feedback. Is anything regularly slowing them down? Does anyone have an idea on how to speed something up? Keep an open mind for all employee feedback and you can better identify trouble spots in your process.

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