Industry leaders have been raving all year about the state-of-the-art inventory system that Albright’s Supply has developed and installed at their warehouse in Corinth, Mississippi. So when we visited in October for their “Open House“ event, it was at the top of our list of things to see.
Chip Albright, who spearheaded the system’s implementation, was eager to show us exactly how it worked. He’s been involved in the upholstery industry since the 1950’s, but now works as a lean process consultant — helping many of the world’s largest manufacturers cut waste and become more efficient.
His background in both upholstery and lean engineering made him a natural choice to develop the inventory system for his family’s business.
So, after a thorough audit of how Albright’s was processing and filling orders, he sat down with his son – a systems consultant – to figure out how to take the waste out of the order-processing system.
The system they came up with operates on a network of computers, digital scanners, barcodes and a complex tracking algorithm. Together, it allows warehouse staff to quickly recall any one of Albright’s 40,000 items in stock and know exactly how much is available.
Say, for example, 4H-Customs Upholstery in Destin, FL, places an order for 5 yards of black vinyl. In the past, Albright’s computer system might show 30 yards available – but they didn’t know if that was one 5-yard role or 5 one-yard rolls. Now, every roll is barcoded and scanned into the system, which gives Albright’s an accurate picture of its inventory in real time.
“That allows us to process orders quicker and with a higher degree of accuracy,” explained Chip. In fact, with the new system in place, Albright’s has gone from it taking about 20 minutes to fill an order to just 3 to 5 minutes — with no errors, saving time and money.
And customers couldn’t be happier. Not only are they receiving their shipments at record speed, but Albright’s is able to pass on its savings to customers in the form of competitive prices and free shipping.
Curious about the philosophy behind the system, we sat down to chat with Chip.
He explained that the entire system is based on the concept of lean manufacturing — which, at its core, is all about streamlining processes to save space, time and money.
Companies do this by eliminating waste, reorganizing workspaces and workflow, maintaining their equipment, setting high standards and sustaining the process.
Global manufacturers, he said, refer to this as a 5S Program — which stands for Sort, Set in order, Shine, Standardize and Sustain. It’s something that all of us, suppliers and trimmers alike, stand to benefit from.
The wastes that lean addresses include:
- Defects – Efforts caused by rework, scrap and incorrect information
- Over Production – Producing too much of a product before it is ready to be sold
- Waiting – Wasted time waiting to do the next step or looking for items to do the next step
- Non-Utilized Talent – Employees that are not effectively engaged in the process
- Transportation – Unnecessary movements of products and materials
- Inventory – Excess products and materials not being used
- Motion – Making unnecessary motion due to workspace layout, ergonomic issues or searching for misplaced items
- Extra Processing – Performing any activity that is not required by the customer
Go Lean with Albright’s Supply
Intrigued, we asked Chip to write a series of articles for The Hog Ring community based on the 5S program — dedicating one article per month to each S and showing us how it could be used at our shops to cut waste, and save time and money.
In doing so, he’ll share his experiences, answer your questions and hopefully learn from you as much as you learn from him. After all, that’s what The Hog Ring is all about.
So stay tuned for the first article, which we’ll publish in January. In the meantime, check out this short video of Albright’s inventory system in action: