Warehouse operations are at the heart of a company. When warehouse operations are efficient, companies keep costs low and customers happy. When they’re not, companies don’t ship or receive inventory in time, workers are not as productive as possible, and your company loses money and credibility. Warehouse professionals, therefore, must know exactly how to keep operations running efficiently. With the right mix of best practices, your company can maximize warehouse operations.
To help you improve your warehouse operations, we have rounded up 51 of the top tips from around the industry. The following best practices come from top warehouse professionals, leading warehouse management system providers, warehouse safety experts, and other warehouse operations experts. To help you find exactly the tips you need for our organization, we have categorized our tips and best practices and then alphabetized them. Thus, our 51 tips and best practices for improving warehouse operations are not ranked or rated in any way.
- Tips for Improving Warehouse Efficiency
- Tips for Improving Warehouse Productivity
- Tips for Improving Warehouse Safety
- Tips for Improving Warehouse Operations Using Technology
- Tips for Improving Warehouse Organization and Layout
Tips for Improving Warehouse Efficiency
1. Adopt lean warehouse operations practices. “Warehousing has evolved enormously from its historical roots as the simple storage of goods. Now, in an increasingly globalised marketplace, high-level inventory management, rapid receiving and shipping dock management and accurate, flexible pick and pack services have never been more important.
“Lean warehouse operations open up a range of areas ripe for significant, long-term and sustainable savings. From reduced handling time and reductions in loading/unloading times of trucks and containers to increased reliability and sharing of information and greater flexibility to adapt to changing market conditions of customer specifications, lean brings about a sea change in the warehouse mindset. With improved picking and packing processes, less time is spent looking for or checking inventory, stock replenishment is concise and reliable and lost sales opportunities are minimised.” – Lean Warehouse Operations, Four Principles Management Consulting
2. Avoid procrastination when receiving shipments. “Sometimes when you receive major shipments from suppliers, it’s easy to give it the ‘ol, ‘Eh. Let’s just take care of this later.’ Put an end to the procrastination and take the time to breakdown the boxes, shove them in the recycling bin, un-package your products and stock them accordingly. This is a habit you must commit to. If your shipment comes around the same time each day/week, then schedule it on your calendar. Putting it off will only allow it to become an even larger beast, waiting for your attention.” – Breena Fain, 6 Ways to Optimize Your Warehouse Management System, Stitch Labs; Twitter: @StitchLabs
3. Conduct thorough employee training. “Even the most effective technologies and processes lack value if your employees don’t understand them. Implement thorough training programs that focus on technology and how you want employees to utilize the tools you’ve provided. Education and training should prioritize safety, and encourage innovation.” – The 5 Best Ways to Increase Warehouse Efficiency, Freight Cowboy; Twitter: @freight_cowboy
4. Create omni-channel fulfillment centers. “For some companies looking for omni-channel fulfillment efficiencies, the trend has been to move away from DCs dedicated to a single channel and instead have DCs that fulfill orders for multiple channels, says Ian Hobkirk, founder and managing director of Commonwealth Supply Chain Advisors.
“‘Ten years ago when e-commerce was still fairly new, you had a lot of channel separation in the way companies set up and run DCs, and e-commerce fulfillment, in many cases, was outsourced to a 3PL,’ says Hobkirk. ‘One of the trends we’re seeing now among retailers is to have multi-channel fulfillment centers in which inventory and fulfillment for all channels is under the same roof.’
“The key driver for an omni-channel DC is the benefit it has on inventory—having one pool of inventory that can be used more flexibly to accommodate forecast deviations. ‘There are other factors driving omni-channel fulfillment centers, such as the lower costs from being able to use a common pool of labor, but it’s the inventory factor that’s truly driving this trend,’ says Hobkirk.” – Roberto Michel, Warehouse/DC Management: Six Best Practices for Better Inventory Management, Logistics Management; Twitter:@LogisticsMgmt
5. Review effectiveness. “You can’t improve something that you haven’t actually analysed. It is important to gauge if you are using your available resources to the fullest. Is there a flow of goods in and goods out? Any inefficiency within the chain will impact negatively throughout the whole process. Quite often this means that to resolve a problem in the system, the whole system has to be reviewed. It’s no use enforcing a new system in one area if something else isn’t working correctly.” – 8 Tips to Improve Warehouse Efficiency, Vero Solutions; Twitter: @solutions_vero
6. Understand how to organize your inventory. “Many aspects of your eCommerce business may feel intuitive to you. You may have a great head for business or be skilled at organizing your workflow. When it comes to managing your inventory, however, throw intuition out the window.
Most businesses initially stored their inventory like with like. You line up one dress with small, medium, and large on one shelf. You put another dress on the next shelf. This is the logical way to organize our closets.
But your pick and pack methods will work better when your inventory storage isn’t organized this way. When you line up all the yellow dress sizes together, you might grab a medium when you need a large. If you don’t catch it, you’ll have an unhappy customer.
7. Run an audit of your warehouse. “The first step is to transform your space from an inefficient to an efficient warehouse. That starts with conducting an operational audit. See how long it takes for processes in your supply chain to be completed. Ask yourself: Are my goods organized in a way that makes sense? Is order picking going as fast as possible? If you are not well versed in how to deploy a warehouse audit, then you need to hire someone you can. That’s where an efficient warehouse manager comes into the picture.” – Warehouse Efficiency: 9 Ideas to Improve Productivity, Definitive Technology Group; Twitter: @definitivetg
8. Schedule vendor receiving appointments. “An easy way to help minimize surprises and plan your dock staffing is to require all inbound carriers to schedule delivery appointments. There are two different methods to schedule and they can be used concurrently.
“The first method is to simply assign each carrier or delivery a specific time or window of time to deliver. The second is to assign either a specific or recurring daily, weekly, or monthly schedule to arrive. This allows you to schedule staff accordingly and make the best use of your dock.
“Vendor receiving appointments are absolutely critical if you share a dock or ship both inbound and outbound out of the same area. Any advance paperwork or data should be provided before the delivery is made. By requiring appointments and information about incoming loads, surprises are minimized.” – Back-to-Basics Part 1: Receiving, Exceed Consulting
9. Use ABC Analysis to prioritize items. “ABC is a hierarchy of your most valuable items to the least (by dollar value). This is also referred to as the Inventory Categorization Method. Since you may not value your entire stock equally, this control will have you focusing your time and resources on items that make you the most money.
“A- items are big-ticket or priority stock. These goods require tighter controls and monitoring since they are your largest revenue and cost contributors. Due to their costs, you would most likely be carrying smaller volumes on hand. Since these items are heavily sought after, they should be stored under ‘lock and key.’ In addition to security, A-list products will require higher frequencies of stock reviews and re-ordering. This ensures that you have adequate supply.
“Conversely, C-items have lower values but you may be carrying large volumes of them. For example, if you owned a hardware store, nails in bulk may be considered a C-item. B-items sit right in the middle for value, volume, frequency of stock reviews and re-orders.” – Colleen Rodericks, Inventory Management Techniques and Best Practices, inFlow Inventory; Twitter: @inFlowInventory
Tips for Improving Warehouse Productivity
10. Analyze picking methodology. “As with ergonomic considerations (i.e., designing the workstation to suit the particular work being done), it’s also important to determine whether the current picking methodology appropriately suits the organization. Making the right order picking choices directly impacts supply chain productivity, so it’s not something to be taken lightly.” – Nicole, Ten Ideas for More Efficient and Productive Warehouse Operations, Expansion Solutions Magazine; Twitter: @ExpansionSolMag
11. Communicate effectively with workers. “Since both inbound and outbound freight can result in changes to it warehouse slotting system, all parties and systems must communicate effectively. Communication should include as much information as possible without becoming burdensome. In other words, your systems and team members should provide information critical to each pick ticket or shipment, but this information must be just enough to allow for the successful completion of an order.” – 10 Ideas for More Efficient and Productive Warehouse Operations, Veridian; Twitter: @VeridianInfo
12. Consider incentives for workers. “Warehouse fulfillment involves a great deal of manpower. Storing and retrieving products and pick-and-pack services are going to be large parts of your business. As a result, productivity can be improved by finding ways to spur and motivate employees. Plans for incentive pay or reward systems, especially in pick-and-pack areas, can help encourage more activity and better workflows.” – How to Improve Warehouse Productivity, APS Fulfillment, Inc., Twitter: @apsfulfillment
13. Implement custom kitting strategies. “The best way to increase warehouse productivity is by implementing custom kitting strategies. Grouping and bagging components that are often used together into custom kits can help reduce inventory handling time and make better use of warehouse storage space. For businesses that regularly perform the same types of repairs and procedures, custom kitting can help to cut down on time-consuming errors and make the inventory management process more fluid under stringent deadlines.” – Jamie Saltos as quoted in Warehouse Productivity: 15 Experts Reveal Their Top Tips for More Efficient and Productive Warehouse Operations, Camcode; Twitter: @Camcode
14. Improve employee comfort. “Warehouse work can be tiring. It’s important to make the experience as comfortable as possible, with features such as air conditioning and soft flooring to reduce foot and ankle pains. If possible, make sure your employees have a rest area and access to a kitchen. Many studies have shown that music can help improve productivity. Consider how to add music. Little things can add to making a big difference.” – Christine Wheeler, 8 Genius Ways to Boost Warehouse Productivity, Newcastle Systems; Twitter: @NewcastleSys
15. Invest in quality equipment. “Investing in quality equipment is essential for improving productivity. Warehouses will often purchase equipment that is being sold at a cheap price in order to reduce their expenditure. However, staff cannot work efficiently without adequate equipment. Products that regularly break will impact the amount of work being completed. It might initially seem cost-effective to buy cheap equipment but cost should not only be monitored in monetary terms if you are running a warehouse; you should also measure cost in terms of productivity.” – Richard Scholes as quoted in Best Ways to Boost Warehouse Productivity: 25 Warehouse Pros and Logistics & Operations Experts Reveal the Single Best Way for Warehouses to Improve Productivity, Wonolo; Twitter: @Wonolo
16. Measure and communicate the right metrics. “When it comes to metrics, William Bauer, Managing Director of Royce Leather, hits the nail on the head, saying, ‘You can’t improve something you haven’t measured.’
“William asks: ‘Does your operation capture and manage critical KPIs? Do you know your critical productivity and costs on shipped orders, cost per box and cost per line shipped?’ Before you can improve, you need to have a thorough understanding of these numbers, and how variables affect your warehouse’s productivity. Only then, William says, can you report feedback to your employees.
“Hannah Lincoln, a lead solution consultant at itas and Sage Software, iterates the importance communicating the metrics to staff in real-time, as a motivational tool. She recommends displaying up-to-date data on the productivity of the warehouse – on a team or individual level.
“‘By giving them real-time, up-to-date information, you will find that you maintain high productivity levels because they can self-monitor their own performance,’ says Lincoln.” – Expert Tips for Increasing Warehouse Productivity, RMIT University; Twitter: @RMIT
17. Minimize errors. “Countless man hours and dollars are lost each and every year in the warehouse industry due to improperly labeled items, lost and misplaced products, and incomplete and/or incorrect orders.The right warehouse technology allows you to trim out all of these sources of waste by adding data verification and alerts to your normal operations. A proper warehouse management system will notify you of apparent errors, identify accuracy issues, and include an ongoing maintenance plan to keep your warehouse organized and clean. If your team is able to spend ten minutes a day checking accuracy and correcting small errors, they won’t be spending two hours a day hunting for products that can’t be found. Warehouse productivity increases when all parties are engaged in keeping things in order every day.” – Reid Curley, How to Improve Warehouse Employee Productivity, Archon Interactive; Twitter: @WaveTrak
18. Purchase and install newer equipment. “Purchase and install newer equipment, such as doors, lifts and computer systems. Newer equipment will run faster and break down less. Installing new equipment shows employees that you are invested in the business and in making their jobs easier. This increases morale, which has a positive effect on productivity.” – Carl Carabelli, How to Increase Productivity in a Warehouse, Houston Chronicle; Twitter: @HoustonChron
19. Schedule maintenance plans. “Machines will break down at some point. If you are not ready for such an event, the downtime will increase. By scheduling maintenance plans, you can ensure that the machines are serviced regularly. When you implement strict inspections and maintenance plans, you can identify problems before they become too serious.” – 10 Warehouse Productivity Tips for Reducing Downtime Today!, Arkieva; Twitter: @Arkieva
20. Systematize workstations. “Clutter and efficiency have an inverse relationship. Meaning, the less time employees spend searching for the proper tools they need to complete their job, the better their productivity. Organize workstations to reduce errors and improve your organizational goals.” – Adam Heck, 5 Tips to Improve Warehouse Productivity, Rack Express; Twitter: @rackexpress
21. Utilize cross-docking to increase productivity. “Superior logistics planning includes cross-docking wherever possible. Cross-docking is the practice of unloading materials from an incoming vehicle and immediately loading these same materials directly onto outbound vehicles with minimal or zero warehousing interval between. Think of this as ‘Just-in-Time’ shipping. Cross-docking is an ideal solution when product freshness is paramount. Cross-docking evolved out of a need to get perishable goods to market quickly. This procedure is one of the key inclusions an organization can make to its portfolio of standards whose function is to drive manufacturing and distribution center improvements.” – Anica Oaks, 5 Lean Best Practices for the Warehouse, Apriso; Twitter: @3DSdelmia
Tips for Improving Warehouse Safety
22. Consistently train on safe logistics operations. “There’s a whole universe of accident causes, but certain underlying reasons are clearly identifiable. Many accidents come in the form of slips, trips and falls, as well as injuries sustained while lifting. Often, they happen when people are hurrying and skirting basic safety procedures. Associates need to be trained rigorously to be more conscious of predictable hazards.” – How to Improve Logistics Safety Performance in Your Operations, Kane Is Able; Twitter: @kaneisableinc
23. Create a safety culture. “Creating a safe warehouse does not happen by accident, it happens by planning to prevent accidents. Although forming a safety committee is a good first step toward building better worker safety practices, warehouse operators also need to work toward creating a ‘safety culture’ inside their facilities.
“‘Warehouse managers are accountable for safety. They need to be aware of that, and lead by example,’ says [health, safety, and environmental manager for Flour Constructors, Alex] Sierra. ‘All company employees should feel that safety is their responsibility—that is part of building a safety culture.’
“‘Maintaining an efficient safety culture is a continuous effort,’ [vice president of Safety Resources, Gary] Gagliardi agrees. ‘Safety is not a one-time deal; companies cannot accomplish a culture of safety with one or two yearly meetings. But emphasizing safety throughout the company has a positive influence on its success.'” – John Edwards, Warehouse Safety: It’s No Accident, Inbound Logistics; Twitter: @ILMagazine
24. Ensure safety equipment is used at all times. “In the warehouse, it is vital that forklifts or hydraulic dollies are used to lift items that are too heavy. Appropriate eyewear and hard hats should also be worn when required. Employees should be aware of emergency exits and the sprinklers installed in the roof should not be blocked at any time. Safety equipment is implemented in order to minimize workplace injury, so although it may be time-consuming to initiate its use, it does pay off in the long run.” – Warehouse Safety Principles: 6 Key Guidelines to Keep Your Workplace Safe, Adaptalift Hyster; Twitter: @aalhyster
25. Implement a real-time location system (RTLS). “Real-time location systems (RTLS) offer much more sophisticated geolocation technology, providing more in-depth data for monitoring. RTLS automatically track the locations of chosen objects in real time and build on the capabilities of RFID.
“RTLS tags can be attached to objects and people, enabling you to track and monitor their precise location continuously, not just when they come near a truck-mounted reader. As every tag continuously reports its location, you can collate a much more accurate picture of exactly where those objects are at any time across the workplace. This is particularly valuable when protecting employees in a dangerous environment.
“For example, if an employee needs immediate assistance they can push a call button connected to their tag. The accuracy of the tag means that even if that employee moves location, responders can find them quickly.” – Tim Young, The Top 3 Technologies to Improve Warehouse Safety, Vero Solutions; Twitter: @solutions_vero
26. Implement safe routes and traffic lanes with floor tape. “You should already know that keeping your pedestrian staff separate from your vehicle and forklift operators is essential to avoid dangerous collisions, but implementing safe routes and traffic lanes needn’t be costly or complex. With floor tape, you can mark out areas of your warehouse to keep pedestrians out of harm’s way and ensure vehicles stay on the right side of the path. The best thing about using tape is that it can be easily and quickly changed to suit a new layout or system of working, as and when you need to operate in different areas.” – 7 Easy Ways to Improve Your Warehouse Safety Today, Health & Safety Training Limited; Twitter: @hstukcom
27. Implement strict standards for safety. “Don’t make the warehouse an unsafe place for employees. If the staff isn’t trained properly, the result will be numerous accidents and high injury rates. Ensure that only the well-trained and experienced employees operate heavy duty equipment such as forklifts. Mark the safety protocols in the warehouse, such as indicating a safe distance from danger zones.” – Tips on Improving Warehouse Productivity, Material Handling & Logistics; Twitter: @MHLeditor
28. Keep spaces clean and clear. “When trash and excess merchandise are left out of place, they can bog down operations. Create a regular weekly cleaning schedule so that materials and garbage don’t get out of hand. While maintaining safety by keeping everything in its place, you’ll also create a system for locating and properly placing damaged or returned inventory. Part of the clearing process should include the creation of signage that marks locations for where items belong. New employees can follow directions without interrupting busy senior employees, while landmark and directional signs dress up the space and serving a useful purpose.” – Linda Ray, How to Increase Productivity in a Warehouse, azcentral; Twitter: @azcentral
29. Post safety expectations. “Warehouse supervisors should ensure all safety expectations are posted clearly in close proximity to all equipment—forklifts, hydraulic dollies, hand jacks, etc. Doing so assures that employees have constant visual reminders of the inherent dangers of using such equipment, and the safety precautions they should take to avoid injury.” – Warehouse Safety Checklist: 8 Things Every Manager Should Review, Legacy Supply Chain Services; Twitter: @LEGACYscs
30. Prioritize warehouse safety. “For those companies that fail to promote safety, it is often due to insufficient time, inadequate resources, or the opportunity to save money through corner cutting. In the long run, however, a safe warehouse environment delivers important cost savings through higher employee satisfaction and increased productivity, fewer workplace disruptions, and reduced absenteeism and equipment downtime. You can extend the life of your warehouse infrastructure, such as storage and material handling equipment, as well as reduce damage to inventory. Most importantly, don’t assume that a safe workplace carries a jaw-dropping price tag.
“While you will have to bear the cost (likely smaller than you think) of creating a culture of security in your operation, the responsibility buck also stops with you. Don’t expect employees to drive it; establishing a safety culture, including the requisite operational changes and training and education programs, starts with you.” – Inventory and Warehouse Management Best Practices, SmartTurn; Twitter: @DiCentral_EDI
31. Secure the warehouse. “Safeguard your facility by prohibiting unauthorized people near the inventory. This protects both your property and employees. Post signs in areas where only warehouse personnel are allowed. Install physical barriers in key areas. Consider badges or uniforms to more easily identify warehouse workers.” – 7 Ways to Improve Warehouse Efficiency, Storee Construction; Twitter:@Storeeconstruct
32. Use crash barriers. “A crash barrier in combination with a pedestrian barrier is a force to be reckoned with (but not wrecked). Engineered from solid ductile iron with maintenance-free polypropylene, a crash barrier is ideal for creating clear traffic lanes and separating equipment from people. Because these barriers are flush to the ground, they also protect against forklifts protruding into the pedestrian area. Use both of the barriers and your employees will be virtually untouchable.” – Scott Tierny, 5 Ideas for Improving Warehouse Employee Safety, McCue Corporation; Twitter: @McCueCorp
33. Use proper signage and safety labeling. “Make sure that your facility is clearly and properly labeled and marked to ensure that employees can easily identify safety hazards and other safety-related issues. This will help minimize safety issues in the warehouse.
“Picking and driving paths should be marked so that employees on foot know to watch out for warehouse vehicles. Any areas that pose the risk of electrical shock, exposure to chemicals, or other dangers should also be labeled according to industry and OSHA standards.
“Illuminate hazardous zones using tape or paint on the floor of the area so that employees can maintain awareness.” – 3 Ways to Improve Warehouse Safety for Workers, Imprint Enterprises; Twitter: @imprintbarcode
Tips for Improving Warehouse Operations Using Technology
34. Consider automation. “Boston Consulting Group research shows 1.2 million robots are expected to be deployed across manufacturing facilities in the U.S. by the year 2025. Why? Not only can robotic automation help manufacturers achieve greater warehouse productivity, but it can also drive significant cost savings as compared to employing workers.” – Jennie Dannecker, 10 Ideas for More Efficient & Productive Warehouse Operations, Cerasis; Twitter: @Cerasis
35. Implement advanced shipping notifications (ASN). “This may seem like a no-brainer, but many distribution centers still have not implemented electronically transmitted advanced shipping notifications (ASN). Relying on a ‘regular’ shipping & receiving schedule can result in inefficiency throughout the distribution center. Delays happen, disruption happens- and it causes deviation from the ‘regular’ schedule. The resulting issues start with improper staffing at the receiving dock and ripple through the warehouse. However, by leveraging electronic advanced shipping notifications within the purchase order and inventory management functions, labor can be planned with more certainty. Order fulfillment and transportation activities can be adjusted to ensure proper service time requirements are met, and transport modes are optimized to keep costs down.” – 11 Warehouse and Distribution Center Best Practices for Your Supply Chain, Legacy Supply Chain Services; Twitter: @LEGACYscs
36. Improve receiving processes with RFID technology. “Many companies have chosen RFID technology to improve the efficiency of the receiving process and track their materials in a more cost-effective manner.
“RFID technology can also make it easier to rate vendors based on quality and performance, allowing workers to compare order sheets and invoices and ensure the accuracy of each shipment as it is received.” – How to Improve the Warehouse Receiving Process, Floship; Twitter: @floship
37. Measure results. “Accountability and measuring results of warehouse operations are critical to enhancing and improving productivity. Often, the focus is to get it in and out of the dock and get through the shift. When asked how many cases per man hour each laborer picks or how many pallets per hour a put-away operator moves, the common response is ‘we don’t measure that.’
“When asked how many receiving and picking errors per operator, per shift or per order, again this typically isn’t measured effectively. By measuring results per operator and per shift, warehouse managers can quickly identify and create accountability for warehouse personnel to ensure that the workflows are even and order accuracy is maintained.
“There are many cost-effective methods for these measurements, such as assigning a complete order to each order selector and then sorting the orders for the shift compared to hours worked. This method can also create accountability for the order selector when an error occurs.
“This method may seem punitive, but ensuring that order selectors maintain not only productivity but accuracy is critical to maintaining customer service. In larger operations using a WMS with either scanners or voice systems, they can automatically track these measurements in real time. Voice seems to be the most popular to ensure that order selectors can pick orders hands-free. Scanners are still most commonly used for putaway and receiving.” – Warehouse Improvements, Distribution Property Solutions, Inc.; Twitter: @DistPropSol
38. Understand your technology options. “Plenty of options are available to increase efficiency – including bar codes, radio frequency, pick-to-label, pick-to-light, and voice-activated technologies. These technologies are designed to provide different levels of increased picking productivity and improved accuracy.” – Michael J. Stolarczyk, 10 Ideas for a More Efficient Warehouse Operation, JOC.com; Twitter: @JOC_Updates
39. Use a WMS to implement an efficient returns process. “Returns processing modules should be tightly integrated into the existing WMS. The integration allows for real-time inventory control, immediate inventory allocation, instant picking from the returns area, and cross-docking to a shipping dock.” – Alex Parvenov, Expert Insight: Best Practices in Warehouse Returns, SupplyChainDigest; Twitter: @scdigest
40. Use an on-demand staffing platform to automate warehouse staffing. “When it comes to successfully staffing warehouse jobs, it might be time to think outside of the box. Instead of going through all the standard procedures and processes like posting your job advertisement, evaluating resumes, holding interviews, and checking references, warehouses can use on-demand staffing platforms that automate the entire process. All you have to do with these online staffing platforms is write a quick job description and include details like pay, hours, and warehouse location. The result is warehouse managers can get back to spending time on their day-to-day tasks. Automated staffing platforms are ideal for short terms roles that need to be filled in a timely manner. Furthermore, on-demand staffing platforms take care of things like vetting and pre-screening. Onboarding time can also be greatly reduced.” – 7 Tips For Successfully Staffing Warehouse Jobs, Wonolo; Twitter: @Wonolo
41. Use software-guided sequential order picking processes. “Conventional order picking processes depend heavily now on the use of automated, voice-controlled systems. With that said, however, the use of these systems in tandem with wave-picking strategies causes a lot of problems for warehouse efficiency. What happens is that during peaks, there are not enough employees, but during walls, efficiency and productivity hit record lows. Your organization should utilize a software-guided sequential order picking process such as order streaming that will enable a continuous workflow to employees.” – Improve Efficiency and Productivity with These 10 Warehouse Operations Ideas, Dovetail; Twitter: @DovetailSA
42. Use tracking technology. “Part of measuring what works is making sure that all of your stock is getting where it needs to go (and getting there as quickly as it can). Doing so, however, can be nearly impossible if you’re relying on outdated technology to assist in stock management and tracking. Consider investing in a strong warehouse management system (WMS), ideally one that makes use of barcode or RFID readers to generate automated pick lists for devices associated with the system. Though the initial cost and confusion associated with instituting the system might make this an unattractive option, consider these issues as simple growing pains you must endure to improve the performance of your facility and maintain its competitiveness for years to come. It’s not as though you’ll need to wait long to see results, either; a study performed by the University of Arkansas suggested that warehouses that implemented RFID tracking improved their inventory accuracy by 27 percent in three short months.” – How to Improve Productivity and Efficiency in a Warehouse, Handling Concepts, Inc.
43. Use voice-enabling technology. “Some vendors reduced the costs to make this technology available to all different sized businesses. Voice enabling can be applied to all processes and departments – from receiving to shipping and returns – for better inventory control and increased productivity. These systems have quick install times, require no IT or modifications to your WMS, don’t require extensive training and have a fast ROI – as quickly as four to six months. Do your due diligence though, because not all voice applications are created equal.” – Curt Barry, 10 Ways to Improve Warehouse Efficiency and Reduce Costs, Multichannel Merchant; Twitter: @mcmerchant
Tips for Improving Warehouse Organization and Layout
44. Avoid mixing multiple SKUs in single bin locations. “Mixing multiple SKUs in the same bin location reduces picking productivity. We have done time and motion studies that prove that there is a definite time penalty associated [with] mixing multiple SKUs into the same bin location.
“We see this in many warehouses where a bin location may represent a shelf level that contains 5 – 10 SKU pick facings. The operator is directed to the shelf level and then needs to search through the different SKUs to find the item to be picked.
“Not only does this reduce accuracy, it also slows the operator down by as much as 15+ seconds per pick transaction. Having a discrete pick location for every SKU is rule #1.” – Marc Wulfraat, 5 Ways to Improve Order Picking Productivity, Supply Chain 24/7; Twitter: @SupplyChain247
45. Go up instead of out with storage. “Warehouse space is an expensive commodity so it makes sense to maximise it to its full potential. Most companies that feel they need to move to larger premises have enough space in their existing structure but are using it poorly. One of the commonly overlooked areas into which a warehouse can expand is up. Making the most of the vertical space available to you can add extra storage space while not adding any significant time to pick walks.” – Shane Madz, 4 Tips to Improve Warehouse Productivity, LinkedIn; Twitter:@LinkedIn
46. Maximize the use of vertical space. “Warehouse square footage is expensive, so maximize the use of all your vertical space, even if it requires an investment in additional equipment. You will reduce operational costs, inventory carrying costs, and increase the efficiency of picking and packing operations.” – Westfalia Technologies, 11 Warehouse Operations Best Practices, Supply Chain 24/7; Twitter: @SupplyChain247, @WestfaliaUSA
47. Optimize your warehouse footprint. “Think of your warehouse space as the most valuable real estate on the planet. How can you fit more inventory into the same warehouse footprint? Implement narrow aisle storage within your warehouse to add more rack positions within the same facility space. You can utilize wire-guided forklifts and reach trucks to access products within the narrow aisles.” – Inventory Management Tips Continued: Improving Warehouse Productivity, Datex Corporation; Twitter: @Datexcorp
48. Organize your warehouse to maximize efficiency. “Evaluate your picking paths and methodology as well as how you have organized goods without your warehouse. The workflow in your warehouse should help ensure speed, accuracy, and accountability. Fast moving items should be placed close to shipping; items commonly shipped together should be co-located on the shelf/rack.
“De-clutter the warehouse to remove obstacles that can slow down pick operations, and find ways to reduce the amount of walking that staff members have to do in order to complete their work. Have processes in place so that employees don’t have to leave their work areas in order to address problems. For example, create a space for packers to place incorrectly picked goods so that pick/put-away staff can retrieve them. Use your WMS to create efficient picking plans. Constantly re-evaluate your inventory and order patterns, and reorganize based on changes in order volume.” – 5 Ways to Develop More Productive and Efficient Warehouse Operations, Quest Solution; Twitter: @QuestSolution94
49. Re-slot often to reduce travel time. “Up to 60% of a picker’s daily activity can be involved in travel time (afoot or on a forklift or walkie), so reducing that time-spend is an excellent idea. A good product slotting strategy can reduce travel time thereby reducing picking labor. Always weigh the time and cost of a complete re-slot against the costs of it. Busy operations re-slot their fast-moving, high-profit SKU’s every day. Slotting the facility once and leaving it that way for years is typically a recipe for wasted time and money.” – Scott Stone, 13 Best Practices for Warehouse Productivity, Cisco-Eagle; Twitter: @CiscoEagle
50. Reduce touches. “Every time your warehouse team members pick up an item from your inventory, it costs money for your operation.
“If you find that you have product lines which are put away in bulk storage areas and then frequently moved to replenish picking locations, consider putting them on the floor instead and picking directly from this floor stock.
“This is just one example, but the golden rule is, reduce the amount of times that any inventory item is touched, between receiving and dispatching.” – Rob O’Byrne, 4 Ways to Improve Warehouse Layout Efficiency and Save Costs, Logistics Bureau; Twitter: @LogisticsBureau
51. Reduce travel time for pickers. “Order pickers spend about 60 percent of their time walking product or moving product around. Review your automated options to help reduce extensive travel time for your pickers.” – Shari Fenn, 10 Expert Tips to Improve Warehouse Efficiency for Slow Velocity Products, Calgary Region; Twitter: @ShariFenn