Things can always be faster when you work in a warehouse or distribution center. Speed has become the name of the game when it comes to staying competitive in the global supply chain. Major players like Amazon and Walmart have distribution centers all over the world, pumping out packages at lightning speed.
If you want to keep your customers satisfied, you need to keep things moving in your warehouse or distribution center. Use these tips to keep up the pace and make your facility as efficient as possible.
1. Keep Your Warehouse Organized
Nothing stymies operational efficiency like a poorly-organized warehouse. Your facility should have a thoroughly thought-out floor plan that your employees can navigate with ease. The space should be organized so that your staff members can access products and packages without getting in each other’s way. Your employees may need to process different orders simultaneously, so they should have plenty of space to avoid stepping on each other’s toes. Today’s warehouses are much larger than they were in the past, creating more space for speed and efficiency.
Items should be clearly labeled on the shelf and organized in a way that makes sense for your facility. You can group packages by their contents, destination or point of origin. This layout should make sense to your employees, so they’ll be able find the items they need without having to look at a spreadsheet.
2. Prioritize Fast-Moving Products
Keep your priorities in mind when organizing your warehouse. Every element of your chosen layout should favor your fastest-moving products. Bestsellers don’t tend to sit on the shelf for very long, so make sure your employees can easily retrieve them at all times. Your employees shouldn’t have to go all the way to the back just to retrieve a product, especially if it’s one of your most popular items. You can help everyone save time by moving these fast-selling products to the front of your warehouse. They should be kept low to the ground and close to the loading dock.
Your entire warehouse layout should focus on moving better-performing products to the front, while keeping the less popular products at the back. Go over your inventory and rate your products based on how often your employees need to retrieve them. This should inform your thinking as you change the layout of your facility.
3. Automate the Data Collection Process
Running a warehouse these days is all about data. Digital technology can take the guesswork out of inventory and warehouse management with employees scanning products every step of the way. Your facility should collect as much data on your products as possible, including where they’re coming from, when they arrive, what condition they are in, where they’re going and when they’re set to leave. You can use this data to keep tabs on the location of your products. At any given moment, you’ll know exactly how many products are being stored at your facility.
But in order to improve efficiency, you need to automate the data collection process as much as possible. Your staff members should automatically retrieve this data as they go about unloading and scanning items that have just arrived at the facility and getting them ready for the last leg of their journey. You can use handheld scanners and radio frequency identification tags to simplify this process. Automating data collection also reduces costly errors like inaccurate data entry.
Warehouse automation technology is already a $1.9 billion industry, and it’s expected to balloon to $22 billion by the year 2021. If you want to stay competitive, it might be time to invest in automation. You’ll have all the information you need at your fingertips without adding any additional steps to your operations.
4. Use Inventory Management Software
As you collect all this data on the shipping containers and products moving in and out of your facility, you can save time by sending that info right to your company’s inventory management software. This technology helps you make sense of all the data in a matter of seconds. You can quickly see how many products are on the shelf, when shipments need to go out and when new shipments are due to arrive. Software programs are synced to your data collection devices, so you won’t have to worry about entering that information twice.
Certain artificially intelligent software programs can even help you anticipate future outcomes like inventory shortages, delivery delays and other potential problems. They keep a log of the history of your facility’s operations to help better predict what’s going to happen in the future.
5. Save Time with Cross Docking
If you have fast-moving products coming through the door, you can save time with what’s known as cross docking. Instead of putting these products back on the shelf only to have your employees retrieve them hours later, direct them to a temporary staging area for scanning and inventory purposes. This temporary staging area should be close to the loading dock. When the products are ready for the next leg of their trip, your employees can quickly retrieve them and get them out the door without having to look for them on the shelf.
6. Increase Visibility with Better Lighting
The key to operational efficiency isn’t always as complicated as it seems. Sometimes all you need is better lighting. Warehouses tend to have tall ceilings, and lighting the space, including all those individual shelves, can be a challenge. If you want to be speed up your warehouse operations, everyone should be able to see clearly as they go about their business. Staff members should be able to read labels and use containers without having to squint. Keeping the lights on also helps your employees stay awake, especially if they’re getting a shipment ready in the middle of the night.
Working Towards Warehouse Efficiency
Making your warehouse more efficient starts with having the right layout in place. Your products should be organized according to their popularity. You should automatically collect data on your products as soon as they enter the facility. And always make sure your employees have enough space and light to do their jobs. Follow these steps and you’ll get orders out the door in record time.
A big thanks to David Madden for contributing this guest post!