Lean Warehouse Management: Implement 5S with Bluetooth Tags

Warehouses are a crucial link in the supply chain. In order to streamline processes and lower costs, the logistics industry and warehouse managers are increasingly turning to Lean practices. Here’s how Bluetooth beacons support a lean warehouse system.
Discover more beacon use cases in the supply chain
Developed in the 20th century by Japanese auto manufacturers like Toyota, Lean provides a structure to remove waste and improve processes. Today, Lean practices have spread across the manufacturing world and are now applied to any number of industries. There is even a “Lean startup” movement.

5S for leaner warehouses and distributions centers

The 5S methodology is one of the more popular systems to emerge from the Lean movement. Originally using five Japanese terms, 5S is commonly translated in English as: Sort, Set in order, Shine, Standardize, and Sustain. Applying 5S to warehouse management leads to repeatable results which can be continually improved upon.
But we all know going from an ambitious plan to real results is not always easy. Supporting lean warehouse processes with Bluetooth tracking technologies helps ensure that best practices are being followed, which leads to safer work conditions and a more efficient supply chain.
Learn how Bluetooth RTLS is already being applied in manufacturing and logistics

What is BLE?
Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) is a wireless radio technology which requires a relatively low power consumption to share data between devices. Bluetooth LE technology has a long list of use cases across many industries.
What is the difference between a Bluetooth beacon and a Bluetooth LE tag?
Actually, they are the same. The name depends mostly on the use case. Beacons and tags can both trigger real-world actions or identify a physical location and conditions through the relay of information to nearby smart devices.
What is a Bluetooth gateway?
A gateway is a real-time “scanner” that serves as a collection point for data from beacons within a set radius. By staying in constant communication with surrounding beacons (or tags), gateways create a cloud of data that can be used track any number of conditions, from temperature to location.

Lean warehouse systems using 5S methodology

lean warehouse management methodology
1. Sort

Sometimes, old stock sits there so long, you may not even notice it anymore. Bluetooth LE tags allow you to keep things sorted with an active tracking system. Compared to solutions like RFID tags, barcodes, and GPS, BLE tags are a cost effective and increasingly efficient way to maintain a real time overview of stock.

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By avoiding excess inventory and removing outdated stock, you’re sure to find some valuable space on your shelves. Ultimately, inventory reduction will also reduce holding costs, allowing you to better utilize capital and more easily respond to demand.

2. Set in order

In Lean warehouses, brightly colored tape is often used to mark off work areas. Bluetooth beacons allow you to create smarter boundaries and guidelines for workers. This is especially applicable for indoor navigation, helping employees efficiently move through large spaces and speed up jobs.

Battery operated Bluetooth beacons are easy to install at key locations around your facilities. Like a lighthouse in a harbor, Bluetooth beacons provide a digital signal to guide staff to their destination in the safest, most efficient way.

3. Shine

Establishing a Real-Time Location System (RTLS) with BLE tags can help you do more than just keep things tidy. Using low power BLE tags, personnel, vehicles, equipment and stock can all be tracked, allowing you to better implement Lean practices.
When everything and everyone is in the proper place, work gets done more efficiently. When people and assets are tracked in real time, automated alerts can be triggered when designated areas are entered or exited. This leads to improved processes, increased safety and theft prevention that will make the entire supply chain shine.

Learn more about Bluetooth-based RTLS in the Supply Chain

4. Standardize

Just as BLE tags can help you sort out under-utilized assets, the same technology can also help you standardize inventory replenishment. An active tracking solution based on BLE tags allows you to better automate ordering processes. When inventory moves out the door, it can trigger the reordering process to assure you always have the stock you need in supply.
A single Bluetooth Gateway keeps real time oversight of BLE tags within an up to 50 meter radius (depending on the setting). Knowing what you have in stock, where it is, and where it is going, simplifies your inventory processes and lower associated costs. With automated ordering you can shorten delivery lead-times and balance minimum order requirements with suppliers.

5. Sustain

As you streamline your warehouse and distribution operations, trackable solutions will help you see what Lean practices are being adopted by staff and what needs more support. By analyzing the data generated by Bluetooth beacons and BLE tags, you can solve most any problem.

How long does it take staff to reach high demand items in the warehouse? Where can energy waste be eliminated? Why did accidents happen and how can they be avoided in the future? What is the relationship between product life cycles and demand patterns? And where are the keys to the forklift, anyway?

When you can track processes and assets in minute detail, you can answer all those questions and more. With the help of simple, but smart Bluetooth solutions, you have the tools for continual improvement and the power to make Lean process a reality.
lean warehouse managementWant to get a full overview of Bluetooth tag use cases in Supply Chain? Make sure to check out this white paper.