Most inventory-based businesses store their products in large warehouses. If you run this kind of company, you’re likely already aware of the challenges that come with warehouse management. From damaged products to operational inefficiencies, the possible complications are significant.
The good news is that there are many modern tools and technologies available to help streamline warehouse operations.
This guide covers useful tips and tools to improve warehouse operations and organisation. Implement these guidelines to take the headache out of warehouse management.
Ensure Your Warehouse Layout is Optimal
If you want your warehouse to run like a well-oiled machine, start by assessing the layout. A well-structured space will make it easier for workers to find, pick, pack, and products. When designing your warehouse operations, map it out first, including all the details, from emergency exits to shelving. As you sketch out your design, make sure to accommodate your equipment.
For example, aisles should be at least 4 metres wide to allow forklifts through.
Read our article, The Compliance and Complacency of Using Forklifts.
See our course, Forklift Operation.
Improve Warehouse Efficiency to Lower Energy Costs
You should revisit your warehouse design regularly to ensure it’s still meeting your needs as your business grows. Further, when assessing your warehouse operations design, consider ways you might be able to save energy. Warehouses are massive buildings and they can have high utility bills. Luckily, there are a few ways you can cut costs.
For example, install insulated industrial doors and section the warehouse according to product temperature needs.
Read our article, Managing Warehouse Hazards and Lifting Operations.
Organise Inventory to Make it Easier to Manage
Once the basic layout is in place, think about how you’re going to organise the inventory. FDM4 highlights best practices to help. For example, it’s advisable to keep best-selling products towards the front.
Further, you should stack inventory vertically to save on space and keep the aisles clear at all times. For seasonal items, consider using mobile shelving units. Finally, make sure all products are clearly labelled, ideally with photos as well as words.
Optimise Your Receiving Process
Good warehouse efficiency ensures the right product gets to the right place as quickly as possible. One important step in the process is receiving products and integrating them into your warehouse operations.
Set out clear guidelines for where and how products are received and inspected before they are put on the shelves. Also, you’ll need to set out a designated space for receiving, ensuring zero interference with your workflows.
Implement Best Practices for Picking and Packing
Picking and packing are also critical components of the warehouse operations management process. When order picking, improve warehouse efficiency using system verifications. For example, scannable barcodes ensure that the right product is chosen every time.
You should also decide on a mode of picking, such as by zone versus by batch. For example, by limiting product picking to a zone, you minimise the need for workers to walk, enhancing efficiency. You also need to ensure your workers understand safe lifting techniques to reduce the risk of manual handling injuries.
See our courses, Stock-Picking Warehouse.
Coordinate Customer Service and Warehouse Operations
Your customer service and warehouse operations teams should work together, not against one another.
Improving order management overall is the first step towards this end. For help optimising order management, consider hiring an external expert. You can find freelance Shopify developers via platforms like Upwork.
What should you expect to pay? The average Shopify developer salary is $15 to $29 per hour depending on experience and credentials.
Invest in Software to Streamline Processes
There are many warehouse management software that can help with everything from order management to inventory tracking. Select Hub offers a roundup of leading tools, from Oracle Warehouse Management software to Infoplus.
When selecting software for your warehouse operations, make sure you leave room to scale up. Ideally, you want your business to grow and, as it does, you want to ensure your software can keep up.
Implement Automation Whenever Possible
Warehouse management software can help automate your processes. Sketch out a map of all your warehouse processes and see where automation is possible. For example, you might automate shipping routing.
Instead of relying on people to ensure packed goods are set for the correct destination, a machine can handle it. So-called “order bots” from a provider like Skubana offer a cost-effective means of getting the job done. Including automation helps to improve efficiencies in your warehouse operations.
Try Robotic Tools to Reduce Human Error
Automation can also help reduce human error, which is the cause of a significant amount of lost energy and wasted cost in warehouse operations.
In addition to software, there are robotic tools that can help minimise the risk of people making costly mistakes or coming into contact with machinery that can lead to injuries. Automated guided vehicles, drones, autonomous robots, and automated storage and retrieval systems are just a few examples.
Find Ways to Keep Employees Motivated
Although software, automation, and robotic tools can be useful for many aspects of warehouse operations, they can’t replace people completely. It’s important to continue investing in your workforce, ensuring they are motivated and well-trained.
For example, manual handling injuries are common in warehouses and often incur long-term costs and ongoing rehabilitation. Tap into Safety offers an integrated e-learning platform you can use for employee training, ensuring they are familiar with best practices.
See our courses for manual handling including, Manual Handling in the Warehouse.
Find Ways to Minimise the Risk of Product Damage
Damaged inventory can be a huge financial drain for any warehouse. You can help cut associated costs by ensuring pallets are securely wrapped, adhering to pallet weight restrictions, and keeping workspaces clean and dry.
Damp areas are likely to breed mould and mildew, which can quickly spread across inventory. Further, set up employee training, at your onboarding stage and as regular refreshers, giving workers the knowledge they need to keep themselves, and your products, and others safe.
See our customised online safety induction and on-boarding tools for employees and contractors.
Establish Clear Safety Protocols and Procedures
Setting up your warehouse for success with the right layout, technology, and tools will only get you so far. You also have to implement processes that ensure warehouse efficiency. Write clear guidelines for your employees and provide regular employee training to ensure they are up-to-date on any changes.
Safety is another major issue in warehouses, and you should have clear safety protocols in place. You should also consider an EHS Platform to manage your direct employee’s and contractors compliance. Safe365 is one affordable example.
See our course, Health and Safety Fundamentals For Employees.
Read our article, How to Engage Your Employees in Safety Training.
Optimising your warehouse operations requires attention to many details, from what software and processes you use to how you train your teams. The above guide covers the basics.