Restoring Stores

Contributed by Matt Manguso and Kathy Hashagen


Note: Solid Waste Division (SWD) Operations manages recycling and garbage services at eight locations, transports materials, landfills waste, and manages closed landfills. SWD ‘Stores’ provides the repair parts, materials, services, and supplies to support those operations.

The concrete floor in Stores had seen better days.  When it was originally poured the maintenance crew gave it a smooth surface that was easy to clean. Unfortunately, when the floor got wet it became so slick that it was a safety hazard. Combine that with the divots and dings from hard use as both a welding shop and heavy foot traffic  – resurfacing the floor became a priority. Mark Monteiro, the Stores supervisor, ensured that would occur.But to get a new non-skid resurfaced floor, everything that was on the existing floor needed to be moved out of the way.

Lean thinking: Instead of moving disorganized store inventory, the team decided to take advantage of the disruption, and using the 5S framework they reevaluated how things were “stored” in Stores to optimize their workflow.

Sort: When in doubt, move it out

Before they jumped into this project the team knew of a few problems right off the bat.  There was not enough floor space for their business to function, they were carrying unneeded parts, there was difficulty finding small parts, and there seemed to be overall cleanliness challenges.

Set in order: A place for everything, and return everything to its place.

The first priority was creating more space. Since there wasn’t enough floor space to store everything in an organized way, they had previously resorted to stacking things on top of one another – which made accessing and counting materials very difficult.Creating order helped the team determine what they needed to keep and provided insight on how they could solve their space challenge:

  • Stores still carried parts for obsolete equipment, which resulted in less space for the parts that were used. As they moved, they removed the parts that supported equipment the division no longer carried. Getting rid of old and unused inventory was a good first step.
  • Over the years things had been stored wherever there was an empty spot, which meant that one size of hose clamp could be on one shelf and the next size would be in a completely different part of the warehouse. Reorganizing and putting like parts together helped to consolidate space and make finding inventory more efficient.
  • Finding a small part was frequently challenging. “Locations for parts were identified by rack and shelf, but not where they were on the shelf,” said Cody McCormick, Inventory Purchasing Specialist. “When the items are large and only two or three are on the shelf it’s relatively easy to find. When the items are smaller and there are 10 small bins of small parts – and you need to read the small label on each cardboard bin to find it, it gets harder.” The team requested six cabinets for small parts like those used in home improvement stores.  It allowed them to put more parts in the same amount of space, and each space was labeled, so they could see what they had much more easily.

Shine: Clean-up work areas

The small parts kept in open cardboard containers collected dust over the years, and cleaning didn’t happen very often. Taking everything out, cleaning the box, cleaning off the parts, and then replacing the parts (and putting the small cardboard containers back in the correct location) was a long process, which meant it didn’t happen very often and the dust bunnies grew to a significant size. And, inadvertently moving one of the small containers could mean it would be ‘lost’ for a long time. The new storage cabinets covered the parts from dust and removed any potential errors for cardboard container placements.

Standardize: Set rules for use that the entire team supports and agrees to

To maintain the newly organized inventory, the team agreed to use the shallow drawers in the cabinets which are divided into smaller labelled spaces, so small items like hose clamps can be stored in 4 inches of vertical space – rather than the 12 inch shelf used previously.  And because the drawers are divided the team could also include more items horizontally.  In short, they put the materials from four 8′ x 4′ x 1′ shelving units into one 28″ x 36″ x 60″cabinet – which gave them a lot more floor space! The team also asked that the cabinets be equipped with wheels to facilitate cleaning and future improvement efforts.

Other improvements to optimize workflow included changing the direction of some storage racks to make staff visible to customers waiting for service. They estimate that this change will reduce unnecessary walking, which will create efficiency for Stores staff, and will decrease wait times for customers. The team is also hanging a new “Stores” sign on the outside of the building to make it easier for delivery drivers to find them.

Sustain: Make 5S a habit by integrating it into your daily work routines


“We’ve heard forever that this place will never change,” Cassandra Woerz, Stores Inventory Specialist said. “But we’re changing anyway.”

The Lean improvement mindset is firmly ingrained with staff here, and this work is just the beginning of improvements in Stores. Stores staff are making things work better by thinking about downstream customers like the people in the Shop, so changes ultimately improve workflow and optimize efficiency for both groups.

Employees involved: Cody McCormick, Cassandra Woerz, Keith Sonneson, Brian Pinney, Scott Hildreth, William Walker, Dave Schroeder

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