Sustainable practices help Habitat boost its ReStore sales

Sustainable Development Division’s annual conference project helped streamline operations

By Brion Hurley

Sustainable practices help Habitat boost its ReStore sales

The Sustainable Development Division’s volunteer event prior to this year’s IISE Annual Conference was held at Habitat for Humanity ReStore in Orlando, Florida, our sixth volunteer service project prior to the conference.

Fortunately, Habitat staff already had begun improvement activity before we arrived. They conducted some analysis on their sales, normalized by square footage. They realized some areas were taking up a lot of space but not bringing in an equivalent amount of sales. This led to reconfiguring the layout of the retail store to increase space for higher-selling items and reduce space for the weaker sellers. The change was pretty recent, so they didn’t have any results to share yet.

Volunteers for the Habitat ReStore project included Dustin Diep, Larry Lowe, John Corliss, Diana Berry, Tiff Cremer, Maria Carolina Diaz, Brion Hurley, Andrea Ximena Cortes Beltran, Greg Weisenborn, Edna Berenice (Bere) Agüero Félix, Caroline Krejci, Curtis Bush, Andres Esteban Acero Lopez and Alexandra Bonilla.

After providing us with a tour, we got to work doing tasks they needed completing and took mental notes about the process. After completing most of our tasks, we gathered to share our thoughts and insights.

Here are the key suggestions we provided:

  • Create segmentation on floor in warehouse: Separate warehouse into different sections, segmented by colored lines on the floor. This will help separate the receiving area from the cleaning area, the keep-out areas around the breaker boxes and the storage areas. This will make it easier for everyone to identify problems when these areas get overloaded or crowded.
  • Move cleaning station near breaker boxes: Though we ran out of time to clear out the inventory in front of the circuit breaker boxes, we did suggest a way to reduce congestion by moving the new cleaning station in front of the breaker area. This would make it less likely the area would be blocked with donated materials, as it would also be blocking a process area people will need to access.
  • Continue to enhance pricing guide: While evaluating the pricing guide, we found it very helpful as a starting point. However, there were many items not in the guide so we didn’t know how to price them. We suggested having sheets in the back to make a list of new items for the experts to add to the guide. We also suggested creating a list of items that are not allowed as a second check in case it was received into the store incorrectly. Another improvement we gave was to bring back the laptop into the warehouse and make the guide available electronically so it can be more easily searched.
  • Display map of showroom floor: To improve visuals, we suggested putting up a large board with a map of the store, segmented by areas and color-coded, so new volunteers can take donations from the truck quickly into the store after cleaning and pricing without spending time trying to find each area. The sign should also be flexible to change and update when the layout of the store changes.
  • General implementation of 5S workplace organization principles: 5S (sort, straighten, shine, standardize, sustain) can help better organize a work space so there is color-coding that makes sense and is consistent. Everything has its place and is in its place, and items that do not belong are removed from the area.

For ongoing support in Orlando, Larry Lowe has agreed to involve the University of Central Florida (UCF) student chapter in its store and construction site improvements. Since the 2019 Annual Conference will return to Orlando, we plan to follow-up with ReStore next year to see what progress has been made and help address more challenging issues.


  • 2013: Beach cleanup (San Juan, Puerto Rico)
  • 2014: Le Chainon (Montreal)
  • 2015: Hands on Nashville Urban Farm (Nashville, Tennessee)
  • 2016: Habitat for Humanity ReStore (Anaheim, California)
  • 2017: Pittsburgh Food Bank (Pittsburgh)

We’d like to thank all the volunteers: Dustin Diep, Larry Lowe, John Corliss, Diana Berry, Tiff Cremer, Maria Carolina Diaz, Andrea Ximena Cortes Beltran, Greg Weisenborn, Edna Berenice (Bere) Agüero Félix, Caroline Krejci, Curtis Bush, Andres Esteban Acero Lopez and Alexandra Bonilla. Special thanks to Adanma Robertson, Jessi Tobin and Jennifer Gallagher for their support and willingness to hear our ideas, and to Larry Lowe and Tiff Cremer for helping set up the volunteer event.

Starting last year, we have worked hard to connect local IISE professional and student chapters with our volunteer event so they can continue to support them throughout the year. Last year in Pittsburgh, we were able to partner with the local professional chapter. In addition, West Monroe Partners donated significant time to provide a full analysis of the food bank warehouse operations. They created a summary report with suggested next steps in October 2017.

If you’re interested in joining us next year in Orlando, the Sustainable Development Division will notify when the request for volunteers is posted in early 2019. If you’re an IISE member, go to your profile and select “Update your member record” and under “Divisions and Societies” check “Sustainable Development.”

Do you know of a nonprofit that is applying industrial or systems engineering principles, like lean and Six Sigma? Let them know about our Excellence in Sustainable Development award to recognize their work in process improvement by directing them to

Brion Hurley is a Lean Six Sigma master black belt at Business Performance Improvement in Portland, Oregon. He graduated from the University of Iowa with a bachelor’s degree in statistics in 1996, and a master’s degree in quality management and productivity in 1999. He teaches lean and Six Sigma classes, facilitates workshops and events, performs statistical analysis and mentors employees through improvement efforts. He is the author of Lean Six Sigma for Good: How improvement experts can help people in need, and help improve the environment.