What is Warehouse Management?
For a warehouse to run smoothly it requires a good warehouse management system. Warehouse management systems are software solutions that ensure seamless transitions within the supply chain, distribution centers, and the warehouse. That, combined with the efforts of warehouse employees, can make for an extremely efficient warehouse free of error and mis-ships.
But, warehouse management does not run solely on the reliance of a warehouse management system—it includes the entire ecosystem of the warehouse. From how the docks are loaded to how a return is made, warehouse management must adhere to proper guidelines and processes that help make it a better workplace and warehouse.
Following these warehouse management best practices can help alleviate any breaks in the supply chain and provide the employees with a system that makes their job easier. Read on to see warehouse management best practices that you can implement in your company.
Warehouse Management Best Practices
Long ago are the days where everything had to be manually entered, so why are you still doing it? Automated data gathering and scanning can help to streamline the entire process from picking to shipping a package and placing orders or processing returns. Automation is the key to success and the way the world is moving, so embracing it can speed up entire processes, track valuable data, and avoid errors that come with manual entry.
Invest in a Better WMS
Warehouse management systems help you maintain and manage all things related to your warehouse operations, supply chain management, and picking, packing, and shipping. A good WMS can be the difference between a streamlined workflow and a messy, inefficient one. You can gain valuable data insight, manage workflows, track employee time, amongst other things. Using TopShelf as your inventory and warehouse management tool can be an effective way to improve processes across the board, without severely changing how you run things.
Prioritize Employee Safety
There are tons of safety regulations and guidelines that ensure your warehouse employees stay injury-free and help each other stay that way as well. Make sure that whichever way you take your warehouse management, that prioritizing employee safety is at the top of the list.
Employees should know how to climb a ladder correctly, drive a forklift, look for open shelving, etc. By conducting safety seminars and reminding your employees to be diligent on the job, it can save a lot of people from harm. Employees may not always question safety methods because they worry about calling out their superiors. Still, if you are proactive in securing their safety, that can be major in retaining employees.
Reduce Touch Points
There’s a saying—there are too many cooks in the kitchen—which means there are just too many people involved in a situation. This can definitely ring true along the supply chain. By limiting the number of touchpoints and hands that a package or process goes through, you can limit errors and delays.
If it makes sense to have one person package the product, seal it, scan it in, then get it on its way to the truck at one station, then do it! Often an assembly line approach is actually only making things worse. Too many hands and too many processes that are not aligned is where errors happen.
Organize Based on ABC Analysis
Merchandising your warehouse in a way that makes sense is very important to get products sold and moved in an appropriate amount of time. Some warehouses use the FIFO or LIFO methods, but an ABC analysis can help position products in the warehouse based on the highest, middle, or lowest value.
- A – High-value, low sales: this group is meant for the merchandise that makes your company suitable money but costs a significant amount to procure. You won’t want to keep these items in stock for too long because of the financial strain that it could put your income statement in.
- B – middle-value, average sales: Falling right in the middle is letter B. These goods are sold on a more predictable basis but aren’t the most frequently sold.
- C – low-value, high sales: These merchandise items are the ones that you can’t keep on the shelf. They help to boost your balance sheet but also don’t provide a large source of income because of a lower selling point. You shouldn’t need to market these items too much or give them a lot of attention.
Boost Employee Incentives
Your warehouse employees work very hard and want to feel appreciated and praised for their work. Boosting employee incentives in the warehouse workplace can be an effortless way to boost morale, increase productivity, and help with employee retention. Some incentives that can help in the warehouse specifically include a sound HVAC system. The warehouse should be nicely conditioned in the summer and perfectly heated in the winter, especially on the loading docks, where the doors are open for extended periods of time.
You can also have employees of the month, added snacks and beverages they can have throughout the day, and ensure proper breaks away from the warehouse for a refresher. Plus, incentivizing record numbers can be a fun way to boost productivity while also praising those who commit to process improvement and streamlining processes.
Tracking data points and forecasting can make all the difference in your warehouse. By forecasting future numbers, you can plan and expect fluctuations and spikes or drops in volume. To ship on time, with accurate information, you need to be prepared with the proper procedures, enough staff, and the right budget. Budgeting for things like extra machines, enhanced software, and packaging materials can help alleviate any breaks in the supply chain when that time comes.
Implement Lean Warehousing
Lean warehousing implements the five principles of lean thinking, which are value, value streams, flow, pull, and perfection.
You first define value based on the customer’s need for the product or service.
Value streams mean you determine all steps that get you from the beginning step to the final stage, where the product is in the hands of the consumer.
Once you determine the cleanest and most streamlined path of the value stream, you figure out the proper flow. The supply chain has many steps to it, and once you’ve trimmed the fat of your warehouse operations, you can finally figure out the best flow to your processes.
Pull means that you have products readily available for a customer to “pull off the shelf” as they need it. This requires seamless workflows from the inventory team, the shipping and receiving, and the pricing team. If everyone works cohesively, pull can be perfected.
The last step in the lean warehousing principles is perfection. We say perfection in the sense that practice makes perfect. However, obviously, with human beings and even technology and time, we find ourselves having to face imperfect things. But, when it comes to implementing lean warehousing strategies, the pros say to run through your system at least 10-20 times before you can call-out, locate, and fix any issues in the value stream. So the perfection stage simply means, keep running through the first four steps until you can run as efficiently as possible, without fail (for the most part).
Continuing education is a big one. Of course, employees learn more and more on the job each day, but this doesn’t mean they aren’t missing something. Continuing education falls in line with employee retention and incentives. Offering educational opportunities within your business not only helps you, but it helps your employees. It encourages employee growth, retention, and enables you to stay in line with updated trends and safety procedures in your industry.
Plus, to think that your employees are going to be with you forever can sometimes be wishful thinking. It doesn’t mean you should hold your employees down to one role. It means you should encourage their growth within your business, but also with the knowledge that as they grow and learn, they may find they can move on and be applicable to other roles elsewhere. This is a good thing!
A good employee actually wants to learn more, and they are not content just sitting in one role without advancement. You should invest in continuing education and make it a regular practice within your warehouse. Things move fast in the industry, and keeping up with that can only benefit you as an organization and as an employer.
Regular Cycle Counting
As much as we want to rely on scanning systems and automation, conducting regular counting of your warehouse inventory can secure those numbers. Plus, regular cycle counting each quarter can end up being a fun employee activity where you all pitch in and count the inventory, order pizza, and hang out. It’s essential, at least at the end of the year, to get all of your inventory counts accurate and in order.
Regular cycle counting can accomplish multiple things at once. You can compare your manual counts to the system counts. This can call out any discrepancies that lie within your warehouse management systems or software. You can also do your ABC analysis at the same time, and re-organize your inventory to better fit the demand. Lastly, you can clean, dust, and sweep your warehouse and shelving to ensure people are receiving products that look fresh and new.
Streamline Information Sharing
Exemplifying your data and warehouse information numbers amongst the group can be a great motivator. One way to share this information is with live dashboards on flat-screen monitors throughout your warehouse or in main packaging areas.
If you share live data in a way that doesn’t put pressure on your employees, it can be an incredible motivator for them and help them feel like they have some insight into the amazing work they do. You can show shipments pending, packing, and those that have gone out. You could also include shipments that are about to be received into the warehouse. It helps streamline the entire process because, without that live data feed, they may have to reach out to those in the purchasing departments to get updates on purchase orders being received. It streamlines everything and gives your warehouse employes visibility on the business as a whole.
Set and Track KPIs
A KPI, or Key Performance Indicator, is often something that is only seen as a set goal for individuals in a corporate setting. But, setting KPIs as a business helps to create an overarching goal that everyone within the company strives to achieve. This can be done departmentally, especially in a warehouse setting.
KPIs in a warehouse could look like:
- Decrease shipment times for incoming orders
- Decrease time it takes to unload a delivery truck
- Clean and organize one section of the warehouse per week
Now, these are very basic, overarching examples of KPIs you could set within your department. With KPIs comes data tracking, and that’s the most important part. So, some of the responsibility will lie on managers and team leads to gather the actual data and report it to the company metrics. This can actually create a bit of drive and a bit of accountability within the team. Reaching goals every quarter can help improve your overall workflow.
So, following these best practices and utilizing the tools available to you can only improve your warehouse management. The main takeaways should be; automate where you can, focus on your employees, and make safety a priority.
One of the best practices in warehouse management is having a proper warehouse management system. We believe that TopShelf has the tools needed to create a seamless, automated workflow when it comes to tracking inventory, employees, and warehouse data. Take it for a test drive with our FREE demo.