5S in the Supermarket (not Kanban!)
I was picking up some high cost wheat, corn and my ration of rice the other day in the supermarket. There was a 5S application that caught my eye near the checkout lane.
When I was in high school, one of my jobs was working in the grocery store. One of the clerks' tasks was to return all of the unwanted, damaged or overbudget items to their appropriate locations in the store and warehouse. These items are all tossed indiscriminately into a shopping basket. The job typically starts out like this:
Needless to say, the job takes a long time, simply because you visit aisles multiple times to return many items to shelves. It resembles the often used "spaghetti" diagram we use in manufacturing processes to better understand workflow. In general, the exercise of making a plate of spaghetti on your paper layout highlights in plain view the waste of motion.
The thing that caught my eye in the supermarket was a solution to make this job easier, efficient and effective.
It was a simple wire rack, probably taken from surplus material handling area in the warehouse. It was then populated with the common hand held shopping baskets we are all very familiar with. On each basket was a simple label: "Aisle 1", "Aisle 2", "Aisle 3", etc.
Here are some potential problems solved with this approach.
1) Anyone can grab a basket with a few items, anytime.
2) Because anyone can do the job quickly, the workforce is more efficient. This eliminates the waste of waiting - for that bagger you sent off 1 hour ago who is bored and frustrated after visiting the soup aisle 14 times. Now anyone who is walking down aisle 4 can just grab the basket and kill two birds with one stone.
3) Because the new system is made up of baskets, there is less clutter and damaged product for customer's to see. Customer's with an eye for quality like to see orderly workplaces.
4) A basket with a half dozen items does far less damage to product at the bottom than a full size shopping cart full of two hundred items. Once I was returning items and slipped in some broken eggs dripping from the bottom of the cart. A few curse words later, a simple job turned into a clean up job. The cost of damage and spoilage goes down with good 5S practices in this case.
Anyway, hope you enjoyed this post. I thought it was a great example of 5S in the real world.
Slightly politically related, but not really, comment:
Speaking of high prices for corn and wheat, and the announcement of rice rationing....when is Congress going to take on "Big Corn", "Big Wheat" and "Big Rice" in the same way they want to take on "Big Oil"?