When you work in a warehouse, you probably have some best practices in place, and steps to ensure a clean and clear warehouse. However, you also know that there is always room for improvement. We’ve got some helpful tips to help your warehouse achieve maximum efficiency.
Streamline Your Warehouse Layout
Your warehouse layout can be the one thing standing between a seamless, efficient warehouse, and one that is messy and inefficient. Your layout should make sense based on your needs. But you first need to identify your goals. Do you need to optimize your pick and pack areas? Do you need to improve your receiving processes? Whatever it is, design your layout to nurture those areas, and lift them up.
You should be able to draw a straight line from your receiving area, to your inventory management, to the pick, pack, and ship department. If that line intersects or overlaps at any point, it may mean your layout needs some significant improvement.
Conduct an ABC Analysis of Your Inventory
ABC analysis is an inventory categorization technique that places your inventory into three different categories—A, B, or C. Essentially, it divides your inventory up by their value. Group A will often be the smallest category, but the SKUs in that group make up the majority (80%) of your business’s value. Group B will be the mid-level SKUs, and Group C will be the SKUs that don’t have much impact on your bottom line. They may be the slow-moving or discontinued SKUs. By categorizing this way, you blatantly call out the top, most vital inventory to ensure it is optimized, organized, and easily accessible in your warehouse.
Keep Your Warehouse Clean
This seems like a no-brainer, but it’s always a helpful reminder. Keeping the warehouse clean can help keep things moving, keep people safe, and keeps the isles clear for forklifts and people to move about and get their job done. Make sure you have your employees not only keep their workspace clean but also make an effort to pick up messes or re-organize things as they see it, regardless of whether they made the mess or not. As the saying goes, if you can lean, you can clean.
Keep Your Warehouse Organized
In addition to keeping the warehouse clean, it should also be well organized. You have your inventory system, of course, but work stations filled with papers and packing materials, and all kinds of supplies can get messy fast if there is no organization. Everything that your employees use, from pencils to pens to staplers and label makers, need to have a place.
Organizing your warehouse can be as simple as using stackable organizer bins or trays that are appropriately labeled. That can make all the difference between a cluttered workspace and one that runs seamlessly. People will always know where things are and can quickly grab the supplies they need without searching for more than a few seconds. An organized warehouse is a happy warehouse.
Get the Right People in the Right Seats
Do you have valuable team players that might be fit for other roles outside of the one they’re in? Sometimes shifting employees around to different areas and responsibilities can boost effectiveness and employee satisfaction. Make sure you open up positions in your warehouse to those internal employees who are looking for more responsibility or even horizontal shifts for something new. You never know what someone can accomplish when given a new opportunity. Plus, bringing expertise to different areas of your warehouse can actually call out inefficiencies amongst the teams and improve your workflow even more.
Perfect Your Inventory Management
Inventory is the heart of your warehouse, and if you haven’t perfected your inventory management, you probably aren’t running at full efficiency. Investopedia defines inventory management as “the process of ordering, storing, and using a company’s inventory. These include the management of raw materials, components, and finished products, as well as warehousing and processing such items.”
If your warehouse is very complex, with a lot of SKUs and a lot of gaps, you’ll want to get a good grip on your inventory management. It’s essential to understand how all of the pieces fit together from the marketing team to the web developers to the warehouse and how all of that goes hand in hand. Communication is critical, and if the warehouse knows an SKU is running low and the marketing team is continuing ads on it, you may have a problem. So keep working on it, tweaking it, bettering processes, and finding the right workflows that work for you.
Monitor Inventory in Real-Time
Monitoring inventory in real-time is a critical component to ensuring an efficient warehouse. You may have an inventory team behind the scenes that manage stock levels and re-ordering, but it can also be a good idea to inform your warehouse of those numbers throughout the day. Try installing some TVs in the warehouse that have a real-time chart of orders coming in, going out, and the inventory levels as they are updated. It can be a fun visual as well as a beneficial tool to motivate employees and also catch mistakes or call out inefficiencies.
Develop Easy-to-read Labels and Signage
In line with the organized and clean warehouse, make sure your labeling and signage throughout the warehouse are clear, big enough to read, and makes sense with where it’s located. Don’t just print out a small sign of instructions for warehouse employees. Make it big and bold. Print signage with arrows to remind people how the warehouse should flow for receiving. Put large labels over the department areas, so there’s never confusion about where people need to be and what tasks are completed where.
Implement a Better Receiving Process
The receiving area of your warehouse almost needs to be its own entity. There’s a good baseline approach to how you should rate the effectiveness of your receiving area here. They mention that your transactions, inspection, loading dock, and product labeling should all be performing at perfect levels. If even one area cannot be confidently marked as being proficient, you have work to do. If there are errors and inefficiencies in the receiving end of things, that means the rest of that product’s workflow could be a mess. They are the beginning of the workflow, and you want to start off on the right foot.
Get to Know Your Inventory
Everyone in the warehouse should be able to identify and explain what each SKU is or does quickly. Or, at the very least, be familiar with them. The SKUs are labeled with their varying identification numbers and codes, but knowing more about the product can help in a few ways. It gives a personal touch to the work they do. They can relate to the customer and feel empathy, thus have a stronger desire to get the package sent out quickly and without error. It can also help if parcels are damaged or need to be re-boxed before going back on the shelf, the employees know immediately what box and label it gets, and where it will go in the warehouse.
Conduct Regular Walk-Throughs or Check-ins
Having managers or supervisors do regular walk-throughs of the warehouse can help them better understand how the flow is working, and pinpoint any breaks in the chain. The best way to know if there are issues is to see the processes in action. Now, you don’t want to make it seem like you are hovering or micromanaging your employees, so be sure they understand it’s for their benefit.
Also, depending on how your warehouse is run, “regular” check-ins could mean every few weeks or months. There is no need to do it each day or each week. But it’s essential to revisit workflows and review the warehouse every so often to ensure compliance and make improvements as you see fit.
Ask Employees What They Need to Do Their Job Better
Putting more power in the hands of your employees is a great way to boost morale, improve employee satisfaction, and ensure every person can do their job in the best way possible. You can do this in those regular walk-throughs—ask what your employees need to do their job better. Maybe it’s a standing desk so they can sit when they need to, or stand when they need or want to. Perhaps they want more snacks and drinks available because things get busy in the warehouse, and a quick snack to-go could help keep them focused and have the energy to finish the job. Maybe they want more responsibility, or they need an assistant in their area. Whatever it may be, your employees know better than anyone what they could use to make their jobs better and more efficient. So listen to them!
Focus on Continuing Education
A focus on continuing education for your warehouse workers can be the difference between a good team and a great team. There is a lot of things they learn on the job, but formatting training to cater to their jobs as well as advancement in a role can boost morale and help them to become better in their role, and strive for more.
Try implementing quarterly training sessions that can be attended by those who want to learn more about other roles or departments. You can also do mandatory testing for systems and protocols each quarter that remind everyone of proper safety measures and best practices.
Perform Regular Maintenance
Part of managing a warehouse is making sure the computers, machinery, and everything else works as it should. You should always implement a proper maintenance plan for your warehouse that provides both organization of your workflows and also regular maintenance and testing.
It’s important to inspect areas and ensure OSHA compliance as well as internal safety protocols being followed. Regularly inspect label makers, forklifts, and any other machines or systems whose failure would stall many workflows. Prevention will be your best bet to keep the warehouse running smoothly and efficiently.
Look for a Better Warehouse Management System
Are you finding yourself or your warehouse struggling to manage inventory and warehouse space accurately? Are items being misplaced or miscounted due to a faulty system? It might be time to find a better warehouse management system. Some businesses may choose to use a free inventory tool, but those may not be the most efficient for larger organizations. Fishbowl and Netsuite are great for more significant operations that can manage everything from stock levels to purchase orders to inventory planning.
We highly recommend integrating TopShelf inventory management system within your current processes. It really does it all and is best for streamlining your warehouse organization into one secure platform. If you are interested in a free demo, simply contact us here! We can’t wait to get you on your way to maximum efficiency.