Lean Retail: Reducing Excess Motion and Waste from Store Operations

March 1, 2017

How efficient are your associates at finding merchandise when needed?  How well are your "buy online, pick up in store" (BOPUS) programs being executed from order received to order ready for pickup?  Lean is not a new concept in retail, and many businesses try to optimize supply chain and logistics but struggle with optimizing work flow on the customer floor.  Excess motion is one of the eight wastes in lean practice, and minimizing it not only will improve productivity but also will reduce the time associates take to find items for customers, giving them more time to provide an enhanced shopping experience. 


Motion studies are simple to do, but they do require clear communication to the team since observation studies can affect behavior and ultimately the results. Follow these basic steps to get started: 


Step 1.   Motion studies require a stopwatch, a piece of paper to record observations and good communication.  Communicate with the associates being observed that this is about improving the customer experience and overall efficiency and is not about reducing people.


Step 2.  With a stopwatch and a good attitude, watch how long it takes an associate to locate an item from initial request to fulfillment.  Make sure to have clear definitions on what each of these mean.  Record your observations and the time for each step, and categorize them as value-added and non-value-added activities.  An easy way to separate the two is to ask, is the activity adding value and is the customer willing to pay for this activity?  Unnecessary motion is considered a waste and non-value-added activity. However, motion is required to get the product, so the objective is to minimize it as much as possible by eliminating excess motion. 


Step 3.  Continue to conduct this exercise and document each step that is required, and collaboratively identify where waste can be reduced to optimize the time required to find the items.  Repeat this study for either the same item with different associates or the same associate with different items, depending on what you think you need to solve.


Step 4.  Use tools like a value stream map or a spaghetti diagram to help visualize the steps.


Step 5.  As a team, categorize the identified waste and solution ideas in a simple 2x2 matrix to create a plan on how to remove the waste of excess motion.


While this exercise is incredibly valuable to understand what is happening on the floor, indoor positioning solutions can automate this process and provide retailers with highly granular motion data. That granular data can combine customer behavior trends with predictive analytics to further optimize inventory levels, planogram positioning and elimination of motion waste.  


To learn how lighting and controls can help improve your store operations, visit the Acuity Brands retail page today. 

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