U.S. Navy created a design principle called KISS “Keep It Simple and Stupid” in the sixties. The KISS principle states that most systems work best if they are kept simple rather than made complicated; therefore, simplicity should be a key goal in design and unnecessary complexity should be avoided. The KISS principle, of course, also applies to warehouse logistics – regardless of whether we speak of hardware, software or organisation.
Sometimes, it seems like we, humans, are attracted to complex solutions and we are often impressed of complex structures, processes and technology as if they signalled intelligence. But, in fact, intelligent solutions are usually about simplicity and to find the least complex solution, because it is also often the most cost-effective solution or the best solution in a qualitative point of view.
I have visited warehouses that almost looked like the factory in “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory”: conveyor systems everywhere, pallet robots, pallet elevators and even tunnels for pallets! I admit it looked very impressive! However, the important question is, does it pay off? Was it necessary? Could it be possible to choose a more simple solution with the same level of efficiency and quality?
Better means more cost-effective
My answer is; I believe there is a better and simpler solution usually. Better – for me – is more cost-effective and more reliable.
When you invest in technology, you have many parameters to consider not just the first investment. For example, you must look at the cost of maintenance, new competence and lack of flexibility. Is the new technology easy to scale up and future proof? I am no opponent of technology such as automation and conveyor systems, on the contrary, I advocate the use of technology. The key is to really evaluate whether it is the right solution, or if it can be solved in an easier way.
Yes, sometimes it is necessary to invest in technologies like the ones I mention above. But at first, you should take into consideration if it is absolutely necessary or if there is a more simple solution.
You should always have “KISS” in mind. “Simple” often means more reliable and more cost-effective. I have seen warehouses who invested in automation and conveyor systems, but the problem is they could not manage the daily or seasonal order peaks. Instead, they had to change working hours and sometimes start with shift hours, which means higher labour costs instead. The irony is that the initial reason for the investment was to reduce labour costs. Instead, the investment became, as they say, in lean a “monument” something that’s in the way, limiting and not flexible.
KISS in processes
Also, use “KISS” when you look at processes in the warehouse. The more complex a process is, the bigger chance there is for human mistakes and a longer time to perform the process.
Of course, the “KISS” principle applies to software like WMS and TMS, too. Yes, I know I propagate for established, big and complex WMS but that doesn’t mean you should use more features than necessary. The reason I propagate for big and established WMS is that they are often the guarantee of future and flexibility. The moment you need a new feature in a warehouse, an established WMS often already have it. You only need to configure and press “OK”.
However, when you configure the flow in WMS and warehouse, you should think of the “KISS” principle. Many employees are going to use the system so it needs to be as simple and logical as possible. If no,t people gonna use “shortcuts” that may be negative for quality and efficiency, and therefore the expected results are not achieved.
KISS in the structure of the organisation
As I wrote above, “KISS” applies to the warehouse organisation structures, as well. The more simple an organisation can be, and the fewer levels in the hierarchy it has, the better. This gives you fast communication through the organization. Successful companies often have short decision paths from the floor to senior management.
Remember to KISS – “Keep It Simple and Stupid”.
Roberth Karlsson is a logistics expert and the author of roblogistic.com.