Lean principles can be applied to improving lumber yard productivity by significantly reducing fork truck travel time for staging delivery loads…
Shepley Wood Products was founded in 1978 by Tony Shepley and is headquartered in Hyannis, MA. Shepley serves all of Cape Cod and the island of Nantucket with daily deliveries of lumber and building materials to the professional builder industry. They also have a number of loyal customers who frequently visit the yard to pick up small quantities of materials.
The challenge facing Tony’s team was to improve the productivity of the fork truck drivers to quickly and accurately pick and stage deliveries, while safely improving the flow of drive-through visitor traffic. I facilitated the project and started by training the team in the principles of lean, primarily in identifying and eliminating sources of wasted time, space, and travel.
All of the major product families that are stored in the yard and warehouses were mapped and measured by physical distance from the center of the truck loading area.
Each product family was weighted in importance by the frequency in which those products are picked for shipment. The goal of the team was to reorganize the yard layout so the most-frequent product families were located closest to the center of the truck loading area. This way, fork truck drivers were moving high-volume products over much shorter distances, saving time and travel costs.
When combining volume and distance, the layout showed which product families were the best candidates for movement.
In this layout, it was desirable to move the GREEN areas closer to the center of the loading area, while moving the RED areas farther away. To enhance the drive-through customer experience, we also outlined the parameters for an automated racking and storage system, which was designed by Krauter Auto-Stak engineer Mark Ritz.
The Auto-Stak was constructed between the millwork warehouse and the lumber warehouse, immediately across the main driveway from the delivery truck loading area. The racks were filled with open single-unit pallets of all of the major lumber dimensions, plus decking, trim, and finer-quality wood pieces.
Now drive-through customers can move up and down the aisles around the Auto-Stak and then through the Lumber Warehouse to pick their items without interfering with staging and loading operations across the main driveway.
Other relocations included the engineered wood (up to 60-ft in length) moving to a long, wide zone where full lengths plus custom-cut lengths could be stored together, all hardware moved to a shed at the head of the Auto-Stak (toward the truck loading area), and large-volume storage of roofing shingles consolidated to one area. Finally, an off-site warehouse was closed with all overstock items moving to storage locations in the yard, primarily in the Lumber Warehouse. The Lumber Warehouse gained space by installing a smaller Auto-Stak, which rotated 4’ x 8’ plywood and other building material sheets to conserve width plus allow stacking of open pallets.
What were the overall savings? With the re-layout of the yard plus installation of the two Auto-Stak systems, distance traveled for the major product families was reduced by 30% (nearly 3,000 miles of collective fork truck driving per year). The other main benefit was the improvement in safety for drive-through customers, who no longer needed to drive their vehicles through the same aisles as fork trucks staging deliveries.
Want to learn more? Check out the following video that captures all of the details of the project, including a walking tour of the Auto-Stak and affiliated storage locations.
A longer YouTube video can viewed by following the link.