Lean Warehousing Practices: The 5S Approach


  • What is Lean Warehousing?
  • The 5S Approach in Lean Warehousing
  • Successful Lean Warehousing for Businesses

What is Lean Warehousing?

Lean warehousing gained attention back in 2014. It emphasized implementing practices that yield positive results. In addition, it lowers resource consumption without affecting productivity. That is to say, lean warehousing has two goals. It aims for less waste and maximum efficiency. So, this helps you with sustainable management and increased throughput. More than that, it is a systematic method based on five principles: Define, Measure, Analyse, Improve, and Control.

Before, lean practices existed in manufacturing. Now, there is also a need for lean methodology in warehouses. Modern warehouses don’t just focus on storage. For instance, there are many operations that include warehouse processes. Namely, receiving, putaway, picking and packing. Further, there is also dispatch, inventory and stock replenishment. 

Not only that but there are also other challenges faced daily. For example, staff and workers look at the following: 

  • Operational costs
  • Shorter lead times
  • Number of perfect orders
  •  Meeting throughput requirements
  • Managing multiple deliveries 
  • Managing an increasing number of SKUs
  • Storage and floor space

Therefore, lean warehousing was created not just to minimize waste. It also helps reduce the problems and the pressure on workers. Lean management works on a 5S approach. Because it is a systematic approach, it cleans and organizes the warehouse. 

The 5S Approach in Lean Warehousing


Firstly, you need to identify the things that are useful. Then, you need to separate them from the rest. For example, items that are unsold for too long. They take up unnecessary space. Moreover, consider reducing unnecessary traffic in the warehouse. Removing manual paper picking with scanners lessens wasteful activities. To clarify, objects are not the only ones sorted. Activities, practices and layouts also require discernment. 

In addition, another trick is establishing categories. These categories help you sort things faster. After that, eliminate the ones that don’t fit the categories. One strategy is videotaping the operations. This allows you to analyze the different activities taking place daily. Further, take a look at defective or broken equipment. Certainly, this solves problems with space shortage. 


Secondly, straighten out the objects or practices you kept. That is to say, organizing things for increased efficiency. In terms of items, organize them through the following ways: 

  • Place more important items in front (or somewhere more accessible)
  • Use inventory tags 
  • Map out the warehouse
  • Label stocks and bins to save time
  • Name areas and label racks

On the other hand, activities can be polished by: 

  • Utilizing warehouse signs and instructions 
  • Install floor and aisle markers 
  • Keep reminders in the equipment parking area for charging

As a result, you will improve transportation while minimizing hazards. Aside from that, important items remain in one place for easier access. Another strategy is setting up the areas according to the picking process. Similarly, the best layouts make sure there is a short distance between each step.

Lean Warehousing Practices: The 5S Approach


Shining up the warehouse means making sure it’s clean. You might think dirty warehouses are common. Since clients don’t go there to buy things, there is no need to maintain cleanliness. However, this mindset is wrong. Consequently, dirty surfaces lead to more accidents and damage. 

Before, people considered cleanliness unnecessary. Now, the results of a clean warehouse are clearly beneficial. A clean warehouse operates better with more free space. As a result, they are more productive and profitable. Yet, a lot of warehouses skip this step. 

Clean warehouses make it easy to spot potential threats. In 2015, falls, trips and slips caused high fatalities in the workplace. Cleanliness contributes to maintaining standards and behaviour. For instance, regular or daily inspections encourage discipline. Furthermore, equipment maintenance becomes easier. By cleaning work areas after every shift, defects or damage can be reported immediately. On the other hand, don’t forget to place dustbins and disposal bins at key locations. This ensures no littering around any areas.

Lean Warehousing Practices: The 5S Approach


Some consider this to be the most important step in the 5S approach. Equally important, list down the areas where you observed improvement. Once improvements are visible, applying similar processes in other parts of work becomes easier. After that, standardizing reduces the stress on the entire system. 

In other words, standardization encourages uniformity. Also, it applies a value-driven culture. Specifically, it gives importance to developing core values and consistent behaviour. Some ways to standardize include: 

  • Document best practices and procedures
  • Make standardized processes and procedures accessible and visible
  • Ues posters and charts
  • Implement training manuals and videos


Finally, there is sustainability. Sustainability talks about continuous improvement. Thus, the 5S approach is repeated and maintained. The approach itself becomes a practice. Therefore, regular analysis and reassessment occur. Further, this protects the company from standardizing practices that are ineffective. If it is not sustainable, it should not be standardized. 

Hence, a practice not showing results undergoes reassessment. Following this process of implementation, evaluation and reassessment set up success. In addition, some helpful ways to sustain practices are: 

  • Encouraging staff and workers to be open to change
  • Conduct regular analysis and assessment
  • Reward high performance
  • Be open-minded to suggestions from workers
  • Don’t be afraid to start over

In conclusion, the whole 5S approach will not be effective the first time you implement it. Like many things, it needs time and attention to work. In fact, it is important to remember that perfection is not the goal. Instead, the focus is on improvement. 

Successful Lean Warehousing for Businesses 

Perfect vs Better

Keep in mind that the goal of lean warehousing is not perfection. Instead, it sharpens and improves warehouse processes. Now, innovation becomes more important than perfection. It’s in innovating and implementing new things. Here is where businesses succeed. Moreover, if perfection was the goal, it becomes frustrating. On the contrary, if you keep moving forward, it helps motivate high. 

Areas Affected by Lean Warehousing

Warehouse Layout

Lean warehousing looks at the layout of the building. Space and locations should both be optimized for efficiency. Moreover, the position of racks become accessible to workers. As such, movement of workers decreases. This helps them work longer without getting tired.  

Inventory Management

Just as waste management looks at inventory, lean warehousing does the same. Truly, the storage, restocking and picking of inventory matters. It contributes a lot to whether or not materials go to waste. Lean warehousing and effective inventory management help you avoid problems with expiration and surplus. 

Wastage of Resources

In truth, wastage of resources usually goes unnoticed. For example, workers struggling to get an item from a rack is a waste. Even the workers going around the warehouse with empty carts are also a waste. Yet, people usually don’t think about this or consider it a problem. Hence, lean warehousing makes us take a step back to reassess our definition of waste. In fact, it provides a list of different wastes found in the warehouse

Don’t get left behind. Start implementing the 5S approach for lean warehousing today. Let us help you choose the right hardware and software for your business! Contact Qbasis today!

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