Applying Lean Thinking to Streamline Retail Supply Chains

Applying Lean Thinking to Streamline Retail Supply Chains

Tushar Soliwal
IE Supervisor at Pratibha Syntex Ltd.
Pithampur, Indore


In today’s world streamline the supply chain management is become much more different task for the retailing industries, due to the increase in the demands from customer is now became a great challenge. So retailers must continually seek ways to optimize their supply chains. So for this lean thinking and it’s approach is considered as best solution. The lean thinking is a best technique to reduce the waste and provide several benefits to the retailers. As it focuses on reduction and elimination of waste, improvement in productivity, and adds value into the goods so, every retailer and manufacture has a key focuses on lean thinking and optimization. Implementing the lean philosophy and lean principles retail supply chain management and business sectors can achieve streamlined operations, reduced costs, and enhanced customer satisfaction. In every business organization top management knows about the lean management and it’s important. The lean supply chain works to accomplish supply chain objectives [1]. In this article we dive into application of lean thinking for the streamline the retail supply chains. Before that we will go through the concept of lean thinking:

Lean Thinking:
Lean management was started by TPS, after the end of World War II, but it continues to evolve through ongoing implementation and refinement. Deals with elimination and reduction of waste, and improve the productivity by utilizing the time, resources, or money. Lean thinking applies a great approach in the business. In short lean thinking is a core technique of identifying and eliminating non-value-added activities, or waste. In this article I discus about the eight types of wastes which are considered as hazardous wastage in Lean philosophy. The lean thinking recognize and identify these inefficiencies activities, so after implementing retailers can create smoother, more efficient supply chain processes by following their business standards [1].

Lean Thinking in Retail Supply Chain
Fig: Applying lean thinking in retail supply chain

Eight Wastage s of Lean (MUDA):
Lean identifies 8hazardous waste in a process; they are also called as TIMWOODS.

  • T- Transportation: Moving the things around more than required.
  • I- Inventory: Holding excess stock than required.
  • M- Motion: Unnecessary movement Man/ Materials/ Machine
  • W- Waiting: Waiting for approval/man/ materials or other
  • O- Over processing: Doing unnecessary process than required one.
  • O- Overproduction: Producing excess goods than required.
  • D- Defect: Producing goods with poor quality standards.
  • S- Skill utilization: Improper utilizing employee talent and efficiency [1].

Applications of Lean Thinking in Retailing Management:
As we discussed implementing the lean thinking and the concept of lean are very helpful for the growth of retail business. We can apply lean manufacturing principles into retail supply chains for several improvements like efficiency, timely delivery, earn satisfaction of end user and may more. Here I mentioned the applications of lean thinking in retailing,

  1. Value Stream Mapping: VSM in retailing help to map the flow of products starting suppliers to customers. Lean thinking and approach can identify the bottlenecks and loop holes in supply chain and helps in value stream.
  2. Reduced Waste: As I mentioned earlier, lean manufacturing can helps to eliminate and reduce various types of wastages throughout the supply chains of retailing, sudin principles can helpful for detection of all the unnecessary activities which are termed as waste.
  3. Quality Improvement: Lean thinking used for improving the quality and reduce the defects of the goods. It focuses on preventing the defects by implementing QA and QC tools.
  4. Pull-Based System: Full based system is one of the best retailing tool which deals with customer needs and demands. It’s applied a goods full based retailing supply the goods from suppliers to the end consumer when there is ask or demand for it.
  5. Just-In-Time (JIT): Implementing JIT inventory management is ethical practice for retailing, JIT help for space utilization and timely delivery of the product based on Time, Quantity and Place..

Benefits of Lean Thinking in Retail Supply Management:
Lean Thinking, applied to retail supply management, it can provide significant benefits as mentioned below,

a) Inventory Management: Lean principles encourage minimizing excess inventory. We can implement Just in time tool of lean to improve the productivity and manage the inventory levels.

b) Waste Reduction: Lean identifies and eliminates all various types of wastes. And focus on optimization of supply chain.

c) Demand-Based Ordering: Lean thinking focus on customer needs and demand and not the forecasting activity. Here retailers can use actual-time data and analytics for ordering and restocking the goods.

d) Kaizen (Continuous Improvement): After implementing kaizen system in retailing, retailers can achieve continuous improvement, where we can generate new ideas for enhancing processes through reducing waste and build strong supply chains.

e) Technology Integration: Retailers can leverage technology such as RFID, IoT, and advanced analytics to gain real-time insights into inventory levels, demand patterns, and supply chain performance.

f) Space Optimization: Through optimization of store, store layout and storage spaces, retailers can enhance the store efficiency, and they can reduce unnecessary movement of goods.

g) Supplier Relationships: The concept of lean thinking improve the collaboration with all the people involved in retailing, Lean in supply chain build relationship with customers by ensuring the timely deliveries, regular feedbacks, provide better service and earn satisfaction of customer.

In this article we gone through the concept lean thinking for streamline retail supply chains the implementation of lean thinking offers several benefits. So, Lean thinking helps retailers identify and eliminate waste, improve productivity, and add value to goods. After implementing lean tools retailers can work on the areas like reducing excess inventory, eliminating wasteful processes, and improving quality, at the end retailers can achieve efficient operations, which also reduced excess costs, and increased customer satisfaction. We also studied about lean thinking principles such as value stream mapping, waste reduction, quality improvement, pull-based systems, and Just-In-Time inventory management can transform the way retailers manage their supply chains. This approach leads to several advantages to the retailers.


  1., 9-steps-to-the-lean-supply-chain/ (Accessed on 28 August 2023)
  2. “What Is Lean Retail, ToolsGroup, 16 Dec. 2021, on 30 August 2023)

You may also like:

  1. Implementing Lean Manufacturing Principles for Efficient Production Processes
  2. Application of Lean Manufacturing in Garment Industry
  3. Lean Manufacturing: Principles, Goals, Advantages in Apparel Industry
  4. Just in Time (JIT) in Garment Manufacturing: Concepts and Benefits

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