How efficient are your warehouse processes? Every step in each process needs to be a target for improvement. Adopting certain best practices can help you improve warehouse efficiency while simultaneously driving down costs.
- Establish advanced receiving notification.
Do you know when your next shipment is supposed to come into receiving? If not, you have a major planning gap. You likely have a few vendors who send products on a regular basis. But, even with regular runs, delays happen, and this can cause disruption in the receiving area. Working with vendors to establish advanced shipping notifications will minimize disruptions and allow for better planning. You can link these notifications into your warehouse management software.
- Adopt comprehensive labeling procedures.
Everything in your warehouse needs to have a label on it. A label identifies exactly what the item is and allows for easy tracking in the warehouse management software. Every product coming into the warehouse must be properly labeled before leaving receiving. Every shipment going out also needs comprehensive labeling.
- Adopt barcode and RF technology.
Manually entering data takes time and causes errors, especially if someone is in a hurry. Using barcode and RF technology can keep manual entry to a minimum. This speeds up the data collection while increasing inventory and picking accuracy at the same time.
- Know where you are placing items on your shelves.
You should be able to tell which product is in which bin number, in which slot number, on which shelf. That information should be kept in real time in the WMS. No item should leave receiving without a clear destination.
- Put your top products closer to the shipping dock.
Most warehouses have a few top sellers that appear on a good percentage of orders. Placing those top products close to the shipping dock makes picking easier and prevents a lot of deadheading across the warehouse.
- Pre-plan picking waves.
When a warehouse worker goes out on a picking run, every movement of that wave should be pre-planned. This allows them to get the most out of each wave while minimizing the number of runs needed to complete the current orders. Good warehouse management software makes this kind of planning easy to do.
- Pick directly to a shipping container instead of a pick bin.
If you place product into a pick bin then transfer it to a shipping container, you are essentially doing the same thing twice. When possible, pick directly into the box that you will use for shipping. This eliminates movements and makes the entire process a bit more efficient.
- Record every movement as a transaction.
If a worker has to go to a bin to pick items for an order, that is a transaction. The movements to and from the bin are also transactions. If a movement is needed, but not efficient, put it on the fix it list. If a movement is not needed, eliminate it.
- Practice ongoing cycle counting.
Doing an annual or semi-annual physical inventory can be very disruptive to a warehouse operation, since it involves shutting down the entire operation. The better alternative is to utilize your warehouse management system and implement cycle counting. Instead of counting everything all at once, your team counts a few items each day or each week. This keeps the inventory more accurate while also keeping the warehouse running.
Each of these tricks will help your warehouse streamline operations and keep costs down. What makes each one of them effective, though, is a modern warehouse management system. A good system will incorporate effective labeling procedures, product placement, inventory counting, order tracking, and efficient picking/stocking directives. Is your warehouse operation as streamlined as it should be?