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Are you using current best practices for warehousing in your organization? The keyword here is “current”.
There has been a lot of changes, improvements and technology that has cropped up in the last decade or so and if you are not staying on the cutting edge of changes than you may be missing out on some great opportunities.
Take a look at the check list below to see if you are able to check all the boxes and ensure that you are using the best possible practices in your warehousing activity.
Are You Using the Right Technology?
When you ask most managers if they are using the right technology in their warehouse they point at the CPU in the office and start to talk about their WMS (warehouse management system software) which of course is key BUT it is not the only thing you need to be using in your warehouse to keep track of inventory, plan and reduce risk of out of stock items.
Instead of having workers scribble numbers on a pad and turn that in you should have handheld devices that can easily scan and record SKU’s to effectively track inventory and reduce inaccuracy in recording.
Using automatic data collection via handheld devices and scanable bar codes on packaging has been shown to be a superior method when compared to hand collection of data.
How Transparent is Your Organization?
Every member of your organization should be able to access warehouse information. The time has long passed where what goes on in the warehouse stays in the warehouse.
Under old models and best practices you had one or two people that could be relied on to provide information but with today’s networking capabilities every person in the group that has a need to know has access to the information from the sales department that will be able to answer clients questions intelligently to the pickers in the warehouse.
Transparency is so very important in today’s warehouses because we have all become much more mobile businesses.
Are You Using the Right Packaging/Storage?
How are you using your packaging? Are you using it to the best of its ability?
These are simple questions but they can reveal quite a bit of room for change. The global supply chain requires a different approach.
You have to be quicker to get the inventory in and quicker to get it out just to keep up with the influx. The right storage that is easy to move about is a necessity.
Using bins to store “quick access” items can save steps in the warehouse. Of course groupings are equally important.
Using shelf space wisely by grouping items that are often shipped together will make it a lot easier for pickers to pull kits and get them shipped.
Following this best practice for packing/shipping and storage has the benefit of sending out a visual alert when inventory is low on major kit parts.
Keeping everything simple, accessible and ready to move in the warehouse improves productivity and workflow.
Map It All Out
Do you have an easy to access map of your warehouse that you can share with new hires or temp workers? Oddly enough many warehouse activities do not or they have one that is largely inadequate.
For example your warehouse map has to include every area of the warehouse not just storage, shipping or receiving.
You should have a complete map that lays out where you store pallets, where receiving is located, how shelfs are numbered, where shipping is and other pertinent information.
Ask yourself “if I handed off a map of the warehouse would a new employee or a temporary worker be able to work off this information?”
Is your Returns Process Efficient?
What steps have you taken in the warehouse to make returns easier? Returns are one of the most difficult things to overcome in a warehouse setting.
They present a physical challenge, an electronic inventory challenge and an accounting concern. An efficient returns process is a necessity to ensure that clients/customers get the right credit and that inventory can make it back into the supply loop with ease.
Review your ERP to see if there is some room for a specialized return process. You can speak to your WMS vendor to see if there are some add-ons that can help you to get your returns process more organized.
How Lean is Your Warehouse?
Are you using processes that are promoting lean processes in your warehouse? Here is a another case where your packaging is playing a role.
The goal in any warehouse is to keep moving and by using the right packaging options your labour can spend less time with material handling and less time shifting boxes and more time focused on shipping and receiving.
Some options you should consider for trimming the fat in the warehouse include:
- Reusable packaging can keep waste out of the warehouse and ensure that things keep moving along. This having “just enough” approach frees up space and reduces the cost of waste disposal.
- How many people have to be assigned to constructing cartons? You can do better by using pallets and collars instead.
Cutting back on some of the fat in your warehouse is a best practice that every manager should be striving for every day.
Do You Have a Safety Advisory Panel?
If you do not have a safety advisory panel made up of your warehouse employees, get one together.
You want to be able to have a reliable team of safety advisors that are working in the warehouse every day that can make recommendations and point out any concerns.
This can shift some of the work load off of your shoulders and get more people on board and paying attention to the safety in the warehouse. Safety should be a part of the culture of your organization.
Studies have indicated by adding an advisory panel that consists of warehouse employees you will improve the overall safety level of the warehouse.
The Simple Stuff
Best practices today are largely built around some simple steps like ensuring you are giving your employees the right tools.
Using space to its maximum ability. Using technology to the best of its ability. Using the best practices will help you to improve the reliability of your warehouse.