Ambiguous Visual Controls

Lean Retail Exercise: “Not My Job” Edition

By Jon Miller Updated on May 24th, 2017

The retail industry has a poor image when it comes to the motivation level of its employees. They are often portrayed in popular culture as neither well-trained nor well-paid, not always inspired to deliver a great customer experience. These are once again symptoms of system and leadership problems and not problems of people working within the system.

I was reminded of this while visiting a local big box hardware store recently. This color tape retail display called attention to itself like a peacock with its array of colors. It held my attention with it’s potential as an quick exercise in applying kaizen to the retail gemba. I snapped this photo.

Spend a few moments looking at this picture. Where are the gaps between it and what you would consider a world class lean workplace? Can you identify half a dozen improvement opportunities? The close-up photo below may provide a hint or two.

Where do you see muda? What maybe causing it? What could we do to kaizen it?

—- Update —-

This photo contribution from a reader in Scottsdale, AZ. Similar problems, and a few extra price tags…

  1. Franklin Choate

    March 2, 2012 - 5:57 am

    Ironically, this reminds me of the Piggly Wiggly replenishment system that inspired JIT. You pull out what you need and the next one slides down. However, this looks like a bad level load chart. Obviously they have excess inventory for certain styles. I can picture someone in purchasing thinking, “Oh, the zebra print will be a big seller”. Really? You’re banking on several key elements lining up: getting the right kind of customer, in the right isle, to buy the funky zebra tape. Perhaps some Voice of the Customer could support this purchase, but I digress…
    I’m not certain if 1) customers pulled out samples or if 2) they ordered more inventory than their kiosk can display. But either way, needs kaizen, and one recommendation would be taking away the shelf.
    This could be a case where “giving everything a place and a place for everything” is not a good idea. Removing the shelf could discourage customers from pulling out the tape rolls but not restocking them. However, I’d guess the shelf exists for the overflow; and if we simply have a shelf to hold our excess inventory, then shame on us. Improvement could be made to the purchasing process to meet demand, not what “might be” cool and funky.

  2. Anonymous

    March 2, 2012 - 1:06 pm

    Hi Jon
    Overstock on some colours have overspilled onto the self. Get rid of the shelf, set min stock indicator line trigger when to refill, ensure refill quantity is not more than the spaces remaining.
    Get the tape supplier to refill this rack, only pay the supplier for those that get replenished. What are the buckets doing under the self?
    Reduce the price of the zebra stripped tape.
    I’m sure if I spent more time I could bore you with improvement ideas.
    Thanks for the stimulus during a dull moment

  3. Michael Ghizzone

    March 2, 2012 - 2:57 pm

    This is so classic in Lean inventory control efforts going array. It looks like the planning is off, it seems like all of the rolls are priced similar so why print a price label for each,the buckets end up there because they can, the shelf was created for something other then overflow I am sure. The display is attractive but without the standards its an “epic fail” Kaizen ideas: I agree eliminate the shelf, evaluate the “Activity Report” closer to determine quantity needed, Make the “price” clear for all to understand, train the big box employees on 5S so other items do not end up in the same area,the unit itself is set-up well to establish a good re-order point process and so on, and so on. I do though appreciate the effort its always continuous improvement!

  4. Jon Miller

    March 2, 2012 - 6:09 pm

    Great observations, thanks all.

  5. Art

    March 2, 2012 - 8:16 pm

    No min-max levels or reorder points visible.

  6. John Santomer

    March 2, 2012 - 9:53 pm

    Dear Jon,
    Good day to you. Kaizen suggestions:
    A. Remove the extra shelf as it serves as an open invitation for 5S failure.
    B. Give visual control for minimum level of stock re-order (replenishment).
    C. Remove “muda” of multiple price tags. Place all models with the similar selling price and clearly indicate in the top most board one readable, in clear print a uniform price for majority.Too much space is wasted on the top of the board, suggestion would address visual management (for the customer’s aide.)
    D. In sales, updated monitors for fast moving items/models are essential “andons”. Clearly, overstock is prevalent (non-moving models e.g. printed ones and plain red). What is the indicator and control on this? What would address this and JIT stock replenishment?
    E. Michael Ghizzone was right to point out the space below the stand is another invitation for muda hence the buckets/pails are there.Have the whole product dispenser firmly mounted on a wall instead of placing it on a rack. Why are pails together with colored tapes?

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