Habitat ReStore

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Last year we modeled a pallet rack for a court case. This year we re-purposed that model for a warehouse design project. It’s an interesting crossover. The majority of Fat Pencil’s work involves crime scenes, collisions, and other issues needed to visualize the story of a case. However, in the past few years, we’ve also had some projects in the manufacturing, warehousing, and retail sectors. This is a story about how we helped Habitat for Humanity visualize a more efficient workflow for processing donations at its Portland ReStore location.


The Habitat for Humanity ReStore receives many donations of building materials and household goods. They all get processed in a work room, where each item is inspected, sorted, priced, tagged and then staged for transfer to the retail store.
The work room currently has a few loosely defined zones:

  • Newly received goods
  • Sticker station / pricing area
  • Holding section for goods sold but not yet picked up
  • computer stations
  • miscellaneous work stations
  • “on deck” goods (items priced and ready to go on the floor)

In its current state the work room can get a bit cluttered because the different zones often bleed into each other. The layout is not very intuitive for short-term volunteers to come in and be productive right away. Habitat envisions a future state for the work room that is organized, has a clear workflow, and helps them get goods on the floor faster, but still retains a bit of flexibility; because when your inventory is donations you never know what, when or how much will come in on a given day.

During our first visit to the work room, we saw that there were lots of metal shelves that were not being used efficiently and were in some cases blocked by carts or other pre-sorted goods. Moving the shelves to the center of the room would open them up and make them more accessible, enabling both sides to be used. We also wanted to use the shelving units as dividers between spaces to give those loosely defined zones a bit more structure, cutting down on zones spilling into one another.

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layout option 1

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layout option 2

The most valuable part of the project was a review meeting facilitated by real-time operation of the 3d model. Principles of operational excellence, continuous improvement, and lean management can be tested immediately with everyone in the room seeing the results. We call this process LeanViz, and it’s extremely effective in getting ideas flowing.

video courtesy of Brion Hurley (Lean consultant) and Pete Williams (filmmaker)


During this review meeting, we were able to get some great feedback and suggestions from the ReStore staff:

  • remove the flex stations from the back corner to a more central area so it doesn’t get forgotten and cluttered.
  • swap out the current metal shelving units for pallet racks to allow out of the way storage for carts.
  • plan for two lanes of ‘traffic’
  • create a new sorting station
  • add a central white board that can be updated daily to help short-term volunteers get on track quickly

Our collaboration yielded an accurate picture of a future state that will suit Habitat’s needs much better than what currently exists and will increase their organization and productivity.

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Jazzy Winston is a Visual Designer at Fat Pencil Studio