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Operations Q&A: What's the Shortest Path Between Two Lines?

Operations Q&A: What's the Shortest Path Between Two Lines?

April 14, 2014

Editor’s Note: Lee Schwartz is principal at the Schwartz Profitability Group. He will be blogging occasionally for MDM on the topic of distribution operations. His blog will be presented in a Q&A format. If you have questions regarding operations for Schwartz, please email him at Learn more about Schwartz at the bottom of this blog.

Question: What’s the shortest path between two points?

Answer: While the adventuresome might answer otherwise, I’ve always been taught that the shortest path is a straight line. And while that is a truism, I find many warehouses and factories are not designed for expediency, in straight lines or otherwise.

I recently attended a presentation on facilities layout planning. The speaker shared a story about a company in which all receiving was to be inspected. The problem was that the receiving was at one end of the building, and inspection was at the other. The path may have been a straight line, but the flow certainly was not optimal.

The design of any warehouse or factory should be systematic and address its optimum purpose: to increase productivity, to decrease cost of operation and to improve customer service levels. The layout needs to support the company’s strategy and goals. Does yours?

Bottom Line: My last blog entry talked about Continuous Process Improvement. Evaluating your facility to remove wasted effort is just one area in which to apply CPI. While the best time to design an optimal layout is when a company first moves into its building, changes can be made during occupancy. How can you make it happen? As a former U.S. Army General was known to say when asked, “How do you eat an elephant?”, the best approach is “one bite at a time.”

Lee Schwartz, former CEO and president of distribution and manufacturing companies, is principal of the Schwartz Profitability Group (SPG) that, for almost 13 years, has uncorked the operational bottlenecks of distribution and manufacturing companies, boosting their bottom line results. His consulting and operational turnaround work helps clients find solutions related to process improvement, supply chain management, inventory control, workflow design, and operational performance.

© 2019 Gale Media, Inc.

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