How to apply Value Stream Mapping in Thrift Shop Production

Tim Gebauer shares his thoughts on applying Value Stream Mapping (VSM) to a thrift store. He feels that one of the first things to do to improve a store is visualizing and understanding how things are really being done now. A VSM can identify the flow of raw donations through the facility. Once they arrive, the donations become an asset and ongoing expense for the shop. Communication between departments helps or hurts productivity as it progresses through the store (either a sold item or discarded).

Common issues that are uncovered through a VSM include:

  • Intake processes not matched up with production departments
  • Production capacity not matched up with merchandising capacity
  • Unclear goals
  • Clutter
  • Travel paths crisscrossing
  • Goods moving past processing and then back
  • Staff not trained or empowered
  • Un-clear systems for one-offs and unusual items
  • Storing obvious salvage
  • Too many hands on one thing
  • Indecisiveness

He has a lot of experience improving the flow in a thrift store, and he summarizes his philosopy as “Sell the good stuff, and let the rest go.”

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