Keep your warehouse flow as simple as possible (KISS)

U.S. Navy created in the sixties KISS “Keep It Simple, Stupid” a design principle. The KISS principle states that most systems work best if they are kept simple rather than made complicated; therefore, simplicity should be a key goal in design and unnecessary complexity should be avoided. The KISS principle of course also applies warehouse logistics, regardless of whether we speak hardware, software or organization.

Sometimes it seems like we humans are attracted to complex solutions and we are often impressed of complex structures, processes and technology it signals intelligence. But in fact intelligent solutions are usually about simplicity and to find the least complex solution, that is also often the most cost-effective solution or the best solution in a qualitative point of view.

I have visited warehouses that almost looks like the factory in “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory”, conveyor systems everywhere, pallet robots, pallet elevators and even tunnels for pallets! I admit it looks very impressive! However, the important question is, does it pay off? Was it necessary? Could it be possible to choose a more simple solution with the same level of efficiency and quality? My answer is; often I believe there is better and simpler solutions. Better for me is more cost-effective and more reliable. When you invest in technology, you have many parameters to consider not just the first investment. For example, you must look at the cost of maintenance, new competence and lack of flexibility. Is the new technology easy to scale up and future proof? I am no opponent of technology such as automation and conveyor systems, on the contrary, I advocate the use of technology. The key is to really evaluate whether it is the right solution, or if it can be solved in an easier way

Yes sometimes it is necessary to invest in technology like the one I mention above but first you should value if it is absolute necessary or if there is a more simple solution. You should always have in mind “KISS”. Simple often means more reliable and more cost-effective. I have seen warehouses who invested in automation and conveyor systems, but the problem is they could not manage the daily or seasonal order peaks. Instead, they had to change working hours and sometimes start with shift hours, which means higher labor costs instead. The irony is that the initial reason for the investment was to reduce labor costs. Instead, the investment became as they say in lean a “monument” something that’s in the way, limiting and not flexible.

Also, use “KISS” when you look at processes in the warehouse, the more complex a process is the bigger chance for human mistakes and the longer time to perform the process.

Of course, the “KISS” principle applies to software like WMS and TMS for example. Yes I know I propagate for established, big and complex WMS but that doesn’t mean you should use more features than necessary. The reason I propagate for big and established WMS is that they often is future proof and flexible. The moment you need a new feature in warehouse the established WMS often already have it. You only need to configure and press “OK”. When you configure the flow in WMS and warehouse you should use “KISS” principle. It is many employees that is gonna use the system so it need to be as simple as possible and logical. If not people gonna use “shortcuts” that may be negative for quality and efficiency and the expected results are not achieved.

As I wrote above “KISS” applies to the warehouse organization structures as well. As flat organization as possible and few levels in the hierarchy. This gives you fast communication through the organization. Successful companies often have short decision paths from the floor to senior management.

Remember: KISS “Keep It Simple, Stupid”

Roberth Karlsson

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