Retail Focus: Receiving Product the Lean Way

Hosted at Al’s Garden and Home, Sherwood Oregon

The Peters Company was honored to support the transformation of receiving product at Al’s Garden & Home, the largest full-service independent garden center in the Willamette Valley. Read on to learn how one of the Pacific Northwest’s top garden retailers applied Lean principles to cut days off their time to receive product and slashed their labor cost per unit by 35 percent. In doing so, the company gave its employees the ability to work creatively as a team to improve the business.

The Problem

Before Lean was applied, there was no standard work for receiving product and the process relied heavily on tribal knowledge (information locked in the minds of a small group of individuals and undocumented). No standard work procedures were in place, so employees had to stop frequently to make corrections or ask for help. Products were processed inefficiently, in batches, due to seasonality. Other issues with the process:

  • 3-minute process time per unit
  • Product was touched 11 times!
  • High throughput time—6 to 7 days
  • Lack of visual controls

How The Problem Was Solved

In preparation for a three-day rapid improvement event, team leaders documented reality by tracking and analyzing process times and defects, and diagramming people travel. During the event, the team was trained on one-piece flow and other Lean principles, then mapped out the current state of the process. After visits to the place where the work was performed, the team brainstormed countermeasures to waste and tried three different methods. At the end of three days, the team picked one to test over several weeks with different types of products.

The team leader followed through with every to-do list item and continues to improve the receiving process at Al’s Garden & Home. The new process is completely mobile, managed with visual controls, and has standard work documented and located where the work is done. Product moves quickly through the process with no waiting. Team members have been cross trained, giving many employees new responsibilities. The team leader also established bi-weekly team process discussions for continuous improvement.

Value to the Client

  • Reduced product touches from 11 to 5
  • 46% less people travel in processing an order
  • 90% defect reduction
  • 66% reduced time to process an item
  • Lead time went from 6 days to less than one day
  • Labor cost reduced 35 percent

“Rick and Elizabeth are fun to work with and they always bring great perspective. I look to them as mentors and value the experience and passion they share during each session and beyond.”

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