Warehouse operations are a very important part of any company’s business flow. To ensure that a company ships and receives stock in time to fulfill orders, efficient warehouse operations must be put in place. By initializing best practices, companies can cut time and costs, thus influencing better operations.
Here are 10 of the best practices for warehouse operations that can be implemented right away.
1. Automatic Data Collection
Automatically collecting data not only saves time, but it also significantly reduces the likelihood of error. Most warehouse and distribution centers are running barcodes and radio frequency identification (RFID) that allows them to expedite the data collection process. Any step that can be automated means one less step to managing.
2. Record Every Movement as a Transaction
Record every movement in the warehouse process. This enables managers to see which steps are important and which can be removed to further optimize the overall process. Any step in the warehouse process that cannot be tracked or recorded as a transaction should be eliminated. More often these steps are unnecessary and should be added to the “fix it” list. This enables those in command to find solutions to not let this happen next time.
3. Streamline Processes with Data Synchronization
Data synchronization helps improve visibility and streamlines data integration tasks for warehouse operations. This approach standardizes product data at the system level and helps by updating data repositories with the latest SKU information directly from suppliers. This integration is very cost-effective, reduces conflicts, and eliminates re-keying processes.
4. Use Unique Tracking Numbers
Sometimes serial numbers may be identical between two products. If this is used as the tracking number, duplicate numbers will cause confusion because there is no other way to tell two assets apart. By using unique tracking numbers different from serial numbers will help solve this problem.
5. Implement an Efficient Returns Process
Product returns are imminent. Not only are they sometimes painful to deal with, they are fundamentally complex to warehouse operations. All returning items must be identified, assigned to an account, assigned a disposition and then sorted for processing and then placed back up on the warehouse shelving. This process is difficult to automate and challenging with simple pen-and-paper documentation. There are specialized Warehouse Management Systems that can support the returns process if utilized appropriately. But the bottom line is, having a system in place for efficient returns will help improve warehouse processes. Forming a warehouse returns team will improve time and productivity.
6. Practice Ongoing Cycle Count
Implementing an ongoing cycle count is another way to cut time and costs significantly. Instead of doing a full inventory audit every few weeks/months, introducing bi-weekly/weekly cycle count programs will help gauge inventory accuracy better with minimal disruption. By focusing on cycle counts for high-demand shipments will ensure crucial items are replenished on time. If you have summer interns or kids out of school due to COVID-19, counting parts is a great job to give them if they’re responsible.
7. Minimize Unnecessary Steps
Eliminate unnecessary steps when appropriate. Instead of picking directly from an intermediate bin, pick directly to a shipping carton. When these steps are eliminated, the process becomes faster and more streamlined. This helps increase customer relations and bottom lines improve.
8. Implement Warehouse Safety Protocols
Make warehouse safety a top priority. Companies that fail to promote safety is usually due to insufficient time, inadequate resources, or opportunities to cut costs. However, in the long run, a safe warehouse will deliver more cost savings. Workplace disruptions and issues can be quickly resolved, as well as the overall life of warehouse infrastructure (wall panels, flooring, forklift charge areas, ventilation systems, even warehouse shelving systems and industrial racking) are much more extended. Having warehouse safety protocols in place helps workers resolve issues immediately, as opposed to having to call and wait for help.
9. Make Use of Vertical Space
It is important to take advantage of every available space in a warehouse – this includes floor to ceiling, not just wall to wall. Pallet racking is an easy-to-use storage solution and is also the most common way of storing pallet loads. This is used in a majority of warehouses, manufacturing facilities, commercial warehouse operations and even retail stores.
10. Importance of Communicating Effectively
Clearly communicating with the workers allows organizational goals and processes to be met. This key practice is extremely effective to operations, especially when it is common for managers that fail to create an environment with open and clear communication. Employee productivity also increases as a direct result of effective communication.
These 10 best practices when utilized together will effectively improve warehouse operations. Every business has its own needs and requirements, but being attentive to best practices will give your company a competitive advantage.