Manufacturing Supermarkets

Dear Pickologists,

What the heck is a manufacturing supermarket? – Gail S.

Great question, Gail.  A manufacturing supermarket is comprised of intermediary storage on the production floor, and is aimed at reducing transportation waste by placing bulk storage of parts as close to the lineside as possible, without being lineside.

I know that’s quite the mouthful, so let’s break things down a little bit here.

In the 1950’s, Toyota sent a delegation to the United States to study and replicate America’s mass-production techniques. However, inspiration struck not in a manufacturing facility, but a Piggly Wiggly supermarket. At the grocery store, the delegation saw customers serving themselves from shelves. These shelves would be replenished as needed. Seems pretty mundane, right? However, what we see as standard operating procedure at any grocery store in America was a revelation to the Toyota team. What they saw was a system where the amount of product stocked on the shelves was dictated by demand. The product could be replenished from a nearby storage room without the need to order more or put the entire inventory of said product on the shelf.


How does this translate to manufacturing? Toyota realized that in order to reduce waste, they needed to store just enough of a part or material lineside to meet the demand of the operation- to condense their assembly line. If they placed their entire inventory of a part on the line, they would dramatically increase travel time to the next step in the assembly line. This travel time results in a lot of waste. However, if they had to travel all the way across the facility to restock a part on the line, they’d be burning just as much time and money doing that. The solution was to create a “storage room” as close to the assembly line as possible.

And so the manufacturing supermarket was born. Toyota created a process where lineside storage could be replenished from intermediary storage placed as close to the assembly line as possible. This drastically reduces wastes, such as overproduction, waiting, transportation, and motion. Think of it like a miniature distribution center within a short distance of your manufacturing processes. Instead of having to ship in more parts or crowd your assembly line, you can simply replenish your lineside storage as needed throughout the shift from your dedicated miniature DC.

UNEX offers solutions designed specifically with the manufacturing supermarket in mind. To find out how UNEX can improve the design and performance of your manufacturing supermarket, you can check out our solution page here.



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UNEX Manufacturing, Inc.
691 New Hampshire Avenue
Lakewood, NJ 08701

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