Warehouse management is a multi-faceted operation with plenty of scope for inefficient and wasteful practices to creep in, often without being noticed. Warehouse management requires managing inventory, route management, ensuring efficient workflows and maintaining quality control. If efficiency dips noticeably – for instance if pick KPIs decrease or there are delays with unpacking – the go to solution is often to put more boots on the ground in the warehouse.
But there are ways to make your warehouse more efficient and boost productivity without increasing staffing costs or cutting into profits. Here are several tips for improving efficiency in your warehouse:
1) Understand How Much Time It Takes For Certain Activities Throughout The Day
One of the most important aspects of warehouse management is understanding how much time it takes for the various activities. For example, if you know how long it takes someone to pick cases onto a pallet, or the cycle times on a forklift to put pallets away, then you will know when they should take breaks or switch tasks so as not to cause them undue stress or injury, to say nothing about resource planning. This information will also help warehouse supervisors understand where employees need more training, so they don't spend too much time on any single task during the day.
2) Create Labels For Aisles and Products
One of the best ways to improve workflow and efficiency in a warehouse is by creating labels for each aisle as well as individual products and shelves. For example, if you have one product that's always on the third mezzanine level, it shouldn't be hard to label locations in this area with 'Mez 3' so your employees know where they should go when picking up those items.
The same rule applies for labelling locations throughout the warehouse itself – are these clear and logical? Also are products and cartons etc. correctly labelled? Are there certain areas designated for specific equipment or materials? As a business grows, categorisation and labelling systems frequently fall apart, so a regular review system is helpful during busy times and periods of growth. A clearly marked warehouse map, floor markings, and signage, will help create clear boundaries within which an employee can work without getting confused about what they need to do next.
3) Make Use of Warehouse Management Software (WMS)
There are many different WMS systems on the market that one can use for warehouse management, inventory management and order management throughout fulfilment. These platforms will allow you to streamline your workflow while also saving time on clerical tasks like data entry or inputting information into spreadsheets. A warehouse management system (WMS) integrates these individual functions within a holistic platform, giving you better oversight of each of your warehouse operations.
If you're looking for a WMS that best works for your business, you'll want something that's compatible with the software used by other departments in your business (e.g. your ERP) so these functions can communicate easily without any problems on either end - for instance, to ensure the WMS integrates seamlessly into accounting or point-of-sale (POS) software for customer orders etc.
4) Define Specific Storage, Sorting, Packing, Office and Shipping Areas
It's essential to ensure each warehouse area has a specific use so employees know when they should be there and what their responsibilities are. If storage, sorting and shipping areas have been clearly defined, it will make it easy for new hires and warehouse temps to determine which duties apply to them and how they're expected to interact with other team members who may share these spaces.
Optimise Your Warehouse Today
You can do many things to optimise your warehouse and improve productivity without breaking the bank. Following these steps will help ensure that everyone on staff understands their role, knows how they're expected to perform it, and can get out of any bad habits or routines that may be holding them back from being as productive as possible. Download our free Warehouse Productivity Guide to learn more about how to get the most out of your warehouse today.
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