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In a classic “Pick-Pack-Ship” operation, there are a lot of reasons why Pickers might be making significant errors.

If the question is how to implement Lean Six Sigma in this environment, the first step is to look at the environment as a whole.

  • How is the merchandise stocked?
  • Is the layout intuitive?
  • How are the bins labeled?

The assumption might be that the fault lies with the Pickers, but without knowing the root cause of the errors it would be a mistake not to consider the entire system. Here’s a potential approach to applying Lean Six Sigma:

  1. Create a team that includes a cross-section of Pickers, Stockers and other Stakeholders involved the different, connected processes.
  2. Conduct a 5S on the Warehouse. This will help give everyone an understanding of the current state while at the same provide an opportunity to introduce Visual Management where it’s needed
  3. Reassess the focus of the effort. Should the goal be to reduce “# of mis-picks”, “# of mis-stocks”, “# of mis-labels” or possibly a redesign of the Warehouse?
  4. Use DMAIC Once you have your Charter (or Charters) to focus on the root cause of the defects

Note: Pay close attention in the Improve Phase to Mistake Proofing (Poka Yoke) to remove the possibility of errors occurring in the first place

Another approach would be to do some benchmarking by visiting another Pick-Pack-Ship production environment in a non-competing industry – preferably one that has already applied process improvement techniques. As we say in the business, “steal shamelessly”. Good luck!

Elisabeth Swan

Elisabeth is a Managing Partner at, the co-author of The Problem-Solver’s Toolkit and co-host of the Just-in-Time Cafe. For over 25 years, she's helped leading organizations like Amazon, Charles Schwab and Starwood Hotels & Resorts build problem-solving muscles with Lean Six Sigma to achieve their goals.

Tracy O'Rourke

Tracy is a Managing Partner at, the co-author of The Problem-Solver’s Toolkit and co-host of the Just-in-Time Cafe. She is also a Lean Six Sigma Green Belt Instructor at UC San Diego and teaches in San Diego State University’s Lean Enterprise Program. For almost 20 years, she has helped leading organizations like Washington State, Charles Schwab and GE build problem-solving muscles.