In previous posts, we mentioned a landmark study out of the Georgia Institute of Technology that found that fewer than 30% of U.S. warehouses were operating efficiently. This is due to that fact that, although practices and technology have improved, most warehouses have not kept up, creating a widening “efficiency gap.”
3 Simple Steps to run efficient warehouse operations:
Combatting this inefficiency does not require radical change, however. Simply being able to perform routine steps quickly and easily can make your workflow a lot smoother—and your workdays less hectic.
1. Track Item Locations
Knowing where everything is in your warehouse or storage space is hugely important for saving time and preventing frustration. Most warehouses rely on their internal hero to know where everything is, which works only so long as there is no need to share that knowledge or grow the operation.
The alternative is to have a system in which both locations and items can be tracked using a modern gun or other suitable mobile device. This further enables other efficiencies, such as finding ideal pick paths.
2. Define Where Inventory Can Be Stored
Storage is definitely a game of trade-offs. For example, packing all inventory into one space is the most efficient way to use that space...but it would be a nightmare for pickers, not to mention a good way to lose important lot and date information. Efficiency comes from finding a balance and setting one’s storing rules accordingly.
Some rules of thumb to use when defining storage include the following:
- Popular or fast-moving items should be stored in such a way that they can be easily accessed by pickers, even when the warehouse is busy. Forward staging should be used when it makes sense.
- Like items should be stored together when possible, with individual lots clearly labeled.
- Mixing rules should be adjusted for the types of items involved. For example, a batch of low-cost, homogenous items like ping-pong balls can be mixed in any way that is efficient, while pharmaceuticals would need to be separated by production lot and date of receipt.
- Shelf and pallet arrangements should make it easy to pick the correct items, depending on whether you use FIFO, FILO, or some other inventory accounting method.
- Storage areas and racks should be aligned to anticipate new incoming products.
All of these best practices should be implemented in a way that minimizes the number of times items have to be “touched”—including being inspected or moved. This cuts down on the possibility of human error.
3. Take Locations Offline or Add New Ones
No matter how much time you spend trying to set up the perfect system, there will need to be changes made. Not only is it difficult to plan the perfect storage system, but it is even harder to anticipate changes in product lines and storage requirements in the distant future.
This is where the right warehouse management software makes a big difference. Making changes to locations is simply a matter of routing workflow correctly in recognition of that change. The better your software routes your workflow, the better.
For example, suppose you have added a new section of shelving in your warehouse. You should be able to move inventory to that section easily if needed, and route incoming inventory there as well. In Infoplus, this can be done through a simple command. You can also reserve storage areas for damaged goods and returns, or scale down space when not needed.
Simple Steps, Supported By Technology
In each of these cases, efficiency is not attained through complex procedures or wholesale re-arrangement of the warehouse. Rather, small, incremental changes are triggered by simple decisions. This is why powerful warehouse automation software like Infoplus is so essential. By breaking down these changes into small, actionable steps carried out by the staff on your warehouse floor, Infoplus can help organizations capture efficiencies that would otherwise be impossible to find and difficult to implement.
Want to hear more tips about warehouse efficiency? We recommend downloading our eBook, Is Your Warehouse Operating at Peak Efficiency?