Effective warehouse storage, distribution, and management relies on powerful software that optimizes how you run your facilities. Whether you’re a logistics hub, storage unit, supplier warehouse, or freight forwarder, you need to optimize your intake, storage, picking, packing, and distribution.
One way to do this is through using warehouse management system (WMS) software. That’s only half of the solution though — you need effective policies and processes so your WMS works flawlessly with your staff. Whether you use temporary workers or a permanent workforce, it’s vital to optimize your WMS and your staffing so you can meet the challenges of the modern warehouse workplace.
When your WMS, temporary workers, and employees are working in perfect harmony, you can easily support seasonal trends, business growth, and improved performance.
Here at Wonolo, we’re experts at providing temporary warehouse workers. We’ve looked into how you can effectively integrate your WMS with every aspect of your personnel management — here’s what we’ve discovered.
Optimizing the Intake of Stock
Let’s start as you accept stock into your warehouse. This is when you would typically enter goods received into your WMS. Here’s how you can enhance your workforce and WMS interactions for intake.
- Invest in barcode scanners or other automation equipment that will interface with your WMS. This will significantly increase throughput as manual descriptions and item numbers will not have to be read out and checked off.
- Carefully match your shift patterns to expected delivery dates and times. You will want to ensure your workforce is properly staffed for busy delivery periods.
- Take account of any special equipment or vehicles you will need for the efficient receipt of stock in the loading bay or dock.
- Plan for seasonal trends and forecast likely future demand for checking in and placing stock in storage.
Optimizing the Management and Storage of Stock Keeping Units
Once you’ve taken stock in, you need to place it in storage. Each stock keeping unit (SKU) should be assigned to a specific storage location in your warehouse.
- Carefully map how people and SKUs move through your warehouse. Place popular items on easily accessible routes to minimize the travel time needed to store or retrieve commonly requested SKUs.
- Ensure that you have the appropriate mix of properly trained workers who can use storage equipment like forklift trucks, conveyors, warehouse robots, and other devices.
- Check that items are properly flagged into your WMS when they are safely stored. This could be via a secondary scan, through RFID chips, or some other automated process.
- If you are handling large, unwieldy, or hazardous SKUs, make sure workers use the proper precautions and health and safety procedures when working with those items. Flag them in your WMS so you can ensure you’re supported by such workers when you’re expecting delivery.
- Invest in training in safe handling and equipment usage. This should apply to both permanent employees and temporary workers. Ensure that health and safety policies and processes are properly understood by all staff, and track their training in your WMS.
Optimizing the Picking and Packing of SKUs
Items are only stored so they can be picked, packed, and sent out effectively. Many of the tips highlighted in the previous section can be applied to picking and packing items too.
- Track the productivity of individual staff members in your WMS. Incentivize effective workers to continue working efficiently, and offer additional training to people who need it.
- Maintain careful control of your packing material inventory. Match this against expected supply and demand so you don’t run out of critical packing items during busy times.
- See if you can automate parts of your picking and packing process. Warehouse robots, conveyors, and other technology can reduce the human element for common tasks, so workers can add value where it’s most needed.
- Speak with your sales and marketing areas to understand when promotions are happening that may result in increased demand. Look at seasonal trends to understand busier times and ensure your have proper staffing levels across the rota. Plan this in your WMS.
Optimizing Distribution and Logistics
The final part of the journey through your warehouse is distribution and logistics. Your WMS and workforce can be optimized to make the sending of goods more efficient.
- Identify driver skills and shift patterns taking into account likely need for distribution. Look at previously identified trends to understand future driver needs and manage them through your WMS.
- Get effective supply chains in place when you’re forwarding goods on. Look for opportunities to integrate your WMS with other systems of suppliers, customers, and forwarding services.
- Integrate your WMS with your recruitment needs, for both temporary workers and permanent employees. Driver turnover in logistics can be high, so ensure you have a good backup plan with proper lead times for onboarding and training.
- Track licensing and training requirements for drivers and manage your fleet through your WMS.
Optimizing Administration, Orders, and Workload Across Your Workforce
Finally, you will need to look at all the support roles, workforce planning, and other areas necessary to running an effective warehouse.
- Experiment with different sequencing of orders for picking. Understand the size of your workforce on specific days and try alternate picking routes to see which are fastest in practice, through a time and motion study. Track results in your WMS.
- Carefully explore your rota and shift patterns to match staffing with changes in supply and demand over the day, week, month, and year. Identify busier times and ensure you have proper staffing in place.
- Supplement your permanent employees with temporary warehouse workers. Wonolo can help you secure qualified warehouse workers in fewer than 24 hours.
- Incentivize strong workers. There’s rapid turnover in warehouse workers, so ensure you identify and support your most effective people.
Managing a warehouse, building an effective workforce, and ensuring efficient processes can be very challenging. Look at your WMS in a holistic way to see how various aspects of how your warehouse functions can be improved. Think of this as continual improvement — you’re not trying to change everything at once. Instead, make small changes, measure how throughput and productivity has improved, then make further tweaks.
Over time you will be able to develop more effective ways of working, ensuring happier stakeholders, more engaged warehouse staff, and the quicker and more efficient delivery of goods to their destination.
Co-Founder and COO at Wonolo. Prefer pictures over words. Revel in photography, irresolute on writing. I think neckties and hoodies are a thing.