No matter the stock, a lot goes into managing a warehouse. Managing your warehouse effectively is paramount to maintaining an order fulfillment system for your customers. An inefficient warehouse will take longer to source and move stock around. This adds to shipment time which can then lead to dissatisfied customers, harming the business as a whole.
There are many things you can and should do to manage your warehouse more effectively. Before management concerns, you should have a lot of the equipment needed to run a warehouse. You probably know some of these already, like adequate shelving units, pallets, maybe a forklift or two, and an industrial-grade weighing scale like the ones found at 1800scales.com if your order fulfillment process relies on weight designations.
Assuming you have those basics covered, here are some tips you can use to optimize your warehouse operations so you can save time, money, and your reputation in the eyes of your customers.
Besides your basic storage and acquisition equipment, there are technologies you can use to improve the efficiency of your warehouse. First and foremost, get a Warehouse Management System, or WMS. A WMS is software that’s used to optimize the day-to-day operation of warehouses and distribution centers. They can send pick lists to your pickers, who can receive them via handheld devices, and they can even map the warehouse and calculate the most efficient traveling routes to pick and deposit products.
Along with one of these, every ship-shape warehouse should have something in place to prevent picking errors. In retail warehouses, RFID readers are popular for ensuring that every transaction is accurate throughout the whole distribution and delivery process. Before that, we used barcodes and barcode readers which serve the same purpose.
Cutting down on man-made errors is a surefire way to run your warehouse more efficiently and, fortunately for you, we have the technology to do just that.
Many warehouses don’t take full advantage of their space. If a warehouse doesn’t maximize how much stock it can fit between its four walls. The business is liable to expand or seek a warehouse with a wider footprint. This is costly and increases the maintenance costs of the building, so it’s not ideal and only something that should be considered when there is absolutely no space left.
Look at the shelving that you use in your warehouse. Some warehouses neglect the vertical space they have and cite the costs of elevation machinery that’d be needed to ascend and grab stock from the higher shelves. Sure, but that’s still less expensive than buying a whole new warehouse or expanding the one you have. You should also diversify your storage equipment if you offer products that are differently sized. Develop a standardized bin system to keep those shelves as simple as possible, so they can be efficiently picked from.
Keep It Lean
Lean inventory is when you stock only what you need and nothing else. Now, this is only possible if you’re in a suitable economy where this is possible, but the gist is that you take more deliveries of fewer goods more frequently. You move that stock between deliveries, so you’re not sitting on a stockpile of, well, the stock that isn’t being used yet. You may like having spare safety stock, which is fine, but limit how much of it you keep.
Keep It Organized
Circumvent any potential organizational issues through the use of productivity plans and organized workstations. If everybody has what they need at their workstation. Then they don’t need to wander around your warehouse gathering things, saving time and money.
There’s a facet of lean production that details how you can keep everything organized. It’s called the 5S methodology and it was pioneered by the Japanese to reduce clutter, improving safety and productivity as a result. So, what are they? Translated from the original Japanese terms, they are:
- Sort – Go through the workstation and remove any unneeded material. Keep only what is needed.
- Set In Order – Organize what remains and ensure that every tool, part, and material has its place.
- Shine – Carry out a cleanup of the workstation for safety and morale purposes.
- Standardize – Factor in the first three steps into your maintenance schedule so that they are done regularly.
- Sustain – Encourage yourself and your workers to form habits based on the first four steps so that you don’t fall out of their routines.
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