Deploying a reusable container management system can improve efficiency and save you money by increasing visibility in your supply chain, giving you the data you need to reduce transportation issues and production slowdowns throughout your enterprise. These capabilities mesh nicely with the “lean” manufacturing practice – that is, running production according to five key principles:

  • Precisely specifying value by specific product
  • Identifying the value stream for each product
  • Making value flow without interruptions
  • Allowing customers to pull value from the producer
  • Pursuing perfection

When adopting the principles of lean manufacturing, reusable containers (or “reusables”) are vital to the modern manufacturing process. Lean manufacturing initiatives require suppliers to send the correct part, in the correct container, in the correct quantity, at the correct time and stored in the correct location – each step accomplished making use of a reusable.

After the contents of the reusable have been used, by definition, it must be returned to its point-of-origin to be reused.  This journey may include a stop at a warehouse for cleaning, sorting, and repair. Managing the procurement, marking, movement, repair and cleaning of reusables is typically outside the scope of the functions available in the typical enterprise resource planning application.

Unfortunately, management of reusables is often just an afterthought in the overall design of enterprise material flow, with movements manually recorded on a spreadsheet or in a home-grown software application. Reusables are often not tracked by standard enterprise business management software – because they are not considered raw material, work-in-progress or finished goods, and thus don’t neatly fit into the narrow definition of inventory.

Mistakes and misconceptions can have a powerful impact on your business, especially when important decisions are based on inaccurate guesses. If the goal of the lean manufacturing process is a more cost-efficient, organized business, then comprehensive management of the reusables involved must be a part of the best solution.


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