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What Is Lean Warehouse Management?

October 13, 2022

The logistics industry contributes £127 billion towards the UK economy, making it one of our most important sectors. 

However, as with any industry, it’s important to constantly review running costs, not to mention the overall efficiency of the company so that the business can remain profitable. Otherwise, not only will the business not be as competitive, but the spiralling costs may be difficult to recover. 

Even on a basic level, the business may struggle to grow if it is not running efficiently. 

Here at Metreel, we provide a wide range of tools and equipment to help your warehouse run at an optimal level.

In today’s post, we’re going to be delving deeper into the warehouse industry as a whole by covering lean warehouse management, which looks to address opportunities to increase efficiency within a warehouse environment. 

UK Warehouse Statistics 

  • There are approximately 1,500 warehouses in the UK
  • The UK warehouse industry currently uses 420 million sq ft of property
  • The average warehouse employs 215 people
  • The biggest warehouse in the UK is Magna Park in Lutterworth which sits on 550 acres
  • 52% of warehouse activity in the North East is related to food production
  • Retail, high street and food are the dominant sectors for warehouses across the UK 

Lean Warehouse Management: An Overview

AdobeStock 357276603 from Metreel

Lean warehouse management is based on the principle of maximising efficiency within the operations of the warehouse. The idea being your team will only use the resources they need to complete the task. Since technology is ever-changing, it’s important to keep up with the latest developments so that your productivity remains high. 

Unsurprisingly, the main objectives of lean warehouse management include eliminating unnecessary labour hours. Also, the aims are to improve order speed and accuracy and ultimately increase customer satisfaction.

The process of lean warehouse management follows the five S’s, which are as follows:

  • Sort
  • Streamline
  • Shine
  • Standardise
  • Sustain

Each of these are key components that need to be addressed, so let’s take a look at each in greater detail.


AdobeStock 264041191 from Metreel
Clean and fresh gala apples on a conveyor belt in a fruit packaging warehouse for presize

There are six fundamental processes that take place within a warehouse. These can best be described as receiving, putaway, storage, picking, packaging and shipping. Each of these elements has the potential to run smoothly, or become a huge drain on resources depending on how they are approached.

Therefore, the goal of ‘Sort’ is to define what processes take place within your warehouse specifically, and whether or not they use an unnecessary amount of resources to complete. 

The goal here is to identify whether such processes are holding the team back from reaching its full potential. There may be ways the tasks can be made to be more efficient, or if a better solution exists, the task could be eliminated completely. 

Take the time to oversee each of the processes, since this first step is really about ascertaining a true picture of how your warehouse is performing, and what’s lacking. 


AdobeStock 283919075 from Metreel

Now you’ve identified the issues, ‘Streamline’ calls on you to do something about it. The first step is to do away with any elements that hinder your team’s efforts. For example, using an automated sorting device versus manual effort, since such devices have been shown to drastically speed up productivity. 

Referring back to any essential tasks that must remain in place, and the key here is to maximise the accessibility of the most in-demand inventory and essential resources. In other words, make sure your team has what they need so that they can complete their work easily and without delay. 

Now is also a good time to address the layout of your warehouse, and to relocate team members to the most strategic positions so that they can complete their assigned tasks, without having to navigate unnecessary obstacles. 


AdobeStock 424148484 from Metreel

When you think of our next point, ‘Shine’, what springs to mind? A sparkling clean warehouse perhaps? Well, this is actually the right idea! Simply put, a cluttered or dirty warehouse isn’t productive. Worse still, warehouses that are kept in poor condition will almost certainly present a number of safety hazards that could endanger your employees and result in hefty fines for the company, should an accident occur or if the business fails any inspections. 

It doesn’t have to be spring to organise a deep clean of your warehouse, not to mention a thorough tidy up. So now is the time to get to work on cleaning up the environment, which may involve hiring a specialist company if your team lacks the resources or training to do this to the required level. 


AdobeStock 409845279 from Metreel

Once you’ve got to grips with the changes, these changes should now become the new standards within your team. Though, don’t forget to prepare a contingency plan should anything go awry. After all, it can be difficult to predict daily let alone global events that may affect your warehouse productivity, but forward planning will make all the difference. 

As part of these new standard procedures, your staff may need to undergo additional training. Information about the protocols will also need to be freely available, along with the creation of individual workflow documentation for each department of your warehouse team. 


AdobeStock 381438436 from Metreel

As the name suggests, ‘Sustain’ is about keeping the changes going, so that they continue to benefit your business without hampering the ability for any necessary task to take place.

At the same time, it’s imperative to ‘Sustain’ the enthusiasm for finding new ways to maximise productivity, so your business must continue to seize any opportunities that arise. For example, emerging technologies that automate certain tasks, or look to eliminate manual labour tasks through mechanical handling equipment. The list is endless and is also going to depend on the operations that are carried out within your specific warehouse. 

Checking in with the progress of the changes may include conducting formal assessments with individuals and teams, gathering feedback and incentivising adherence to protocols. 

Warehouse Handling Equipment UK

Metreel Logo Fullcolour CMYKx2 1 1 from Metreel

Hopefully, our above guide will point you in the right direction when it comes to the five S’s that make up lean warehouse management.

Here at Metreel, we manufacture and supply a wide range of handling equipment for warehouses. We help businesses streamline their operations in a way that not only helps to boost productivity but also puts safety first. We’re based in Derbyshire, supplying the UK and beyond. 

If you would like to find out more about our products, or if you’re interested in any other of the services we provide, please give us a call on 0115 932 7010, or drop us an email

Alternatively, check out the Metreel Brochure to discover our full range of products and services.