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6 Ways to Improve Efficiency, Speed, and Accuracy in Your Warehouse

6 Ways to Improve Efficiency, Speed, and Accuracy in Your Warehouse

Modern warehouses are already much faster and more efficient than those 20, even ten years ago. But you’re still feeling the budget crunch every quarter. And, if you’re like us, you know that there are always things we can do to make a warehouse a little better.

So, we crunched the numbers, talked to experts, and meditated in the back of the warehouse to come up with these six methods designed to improve your warehouse efficiency, speed, accuracy, and how much we like working in a warehouse.

Improve Your Operational Software

Your first step in improving your warehouse operations is having the right tools in place to measure, track, and understand what you’ve got. A modern warehouse management system (WMS) is your safest bet to start establishing baselines of your efficiency, waste, how quickly you fill orders, and how accurate everything you do is.

We’ve all heard it a thousand times, but it remains true: you can’t improve something you don’t measure. Choose and implement a capable WMS to gain a better understanding and give your team plenty of ways to use their time and your inventory better.

Enhance Your Metrics Choices

Metrics, especially key performance indicators (KPIs), build on that introduction of a smart WMS. They help you tell the story of your business and how it can do better — and sometimes communicating KPIs is just as important as choosing the right ones.

Review the metrics you track and how you define KPIs. Do they measure productivity? Can they respond to changes to your baseline? Do they match up with current targets and accurately track as performance changes?

Don’t get overly complicated.

You want KPIs that are easy to understand and measure. Glancing at your system and dashboards with these metrics should give you an idea of the health of your business. You and your warehouse team can understand five metrics much better than 20. So, find what easily tells the most important story.

Reorganize Your Inventory Locations

Once you know what to track and can start tracking it, it’s time to review your standard day’s orders and the routes people take to pick them. Look for high-volume products and see if they’re in a good or bad location.

Put your most popular products near they critical points in your warehouse that can speed up picking and packing efforts. Usually, this includes aisle ends and exit or transition areas. However, you might also have enough volume to give them their own space that’s closest to your packing areas, with a set team of pickers grabbing only these while others grab the secondary items to complete each order.

You can speed this up further with a WMS that support voice picking and wave or batch pick and pack methods. They’re faster, more accurate, and improve your efficiency for filling orders.

Try Custom Kitting

When you redo your inventory locations and start reviewing route changes, you’re collecting a lot of data along the way. Use it.

Productivity can see significant gains when you implement custom kitting in your warehouse. Kitting can occur with the packages you sell or how you manage your warehouse, both increasing efficiency by reducing pick points. Selling kits means you can control inventory better and generate higher-value orders more often.

However, you can kit within the warehouse simply by grouping products that are typically bought together. Some companies even bag select items together to give pickers an option to grab one thing instead of many. It can help you control your space and keep inventory counts more accurate, giving you a nice boost.

Give Receiving Its Due

The warehouse mantra is often about getting orders out the door as quickly and accurately as possible. Unfortunately, that leads to bottlenecks and procrastination in the receiving department. The faster and more efficient you become, the quicker you need to get your inventory ready for use.

Make every aspect of receiving, from putting away inventory to breaking down boxes and taking out the trash, important. It should be habit, and your systems should reinforce it. The better you do this, the more accurate and reliable your data, making all these other steps more efficient.

Besides, do you really want a bad inventory count because an empty box listed as full?

Talk to Your Team

And the final way we’ll think about running a better warehouse is by asking you to stop thinking about it. All of the steps above require data and activities from your warehouse team, IT, leadership, and more. Every group interacts with each change in a variety of ways, giving them varied perspectives.

Don’t let all that experience go to waste.

Talk to your team in the warehouse, in IT and sales, and leadership. Discuss what’s working, what isn’t, and their suggestions to change things regularly. You’ll get a two-prong benefit:

-People interacting with the systems and changes have excellent vantage points to find breaking points or see additional changes that can boost your performance.

-It helps your teams feel heard, which makes them happier to come into work and more likely to implement the changes you make.

Your company pays a lot to have different experts in and around the warehouse. They’re the most significant resource for maximizing your business. And, we all like feeling respected at work.

Every Loading Dock Should Have a Vehicle Restraint. Here’s Why.

In 2017, there were 270,000 injuries reported in the transportation and warehousing industry. The same industry also saw 819 deaths, a number only surpassed by the construction industry. The number of preventable fatal work injuries in transportation and warehousing grew 5.3% from 2016 to 2017 (1). 

What do these statistics have to do with loading docks? More than 25% of all industrial accidents happen at the loading dock, and for every accident, there are about 600 near misses (2). If your job has anything to do with loading docks, these figures are meant to help you understand how important loading dock safety really is. 

Forklift Fall-Through

One of the most dangerous types of accidents that occur at the loading dock is forklift fall-through. This type of accident happens as a trailer is being loaded or unloaded. Sometimes, the momentum of the forklift transfers to the trailer, causing it to move forward until it separates from the dock leveler. Other times, the truck driver thinks loading or unloading is complete and pulls away from the dock prematurely. When the forklift leaves the trailer, it falls into the gap. The forklift driver often falls out or tries to escape, and the forklift falls on him or her. The average forklift weighs as much as three cars. 

“Forklift fall-through doesn’t happen every day, but when it does, it’s one of the worst types of accidents that happen in a warehouse or distribution center,” says Jeff Schulze, Vice President at loading dock equipment manufacturer Systems, LLC. “Fortunately, when used correctly, vehicle restraints help minimize the chances of a forklift fall-through accident.” 

When a trailer backs up to a loading dock, the most common types of vehicle restraints capture or block the trailer’s Rear Impact Guard (RIG), sometimes called an ICC bar, securing the trailer to the loading dock until the restraint is disengaged.

Wheel Chocks Are Not the Answer

The Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) states that companies with warehouses and distribution centers are responsible for the safety of their employees, which obviously includes dock personnel, and requires that all vehicles are, at minimum, restrained by wheel chocks prior to and during loading and unloading. 

If someone believes wheel chocks are an acceptable substitute for vehicle restraints, he or she must ensure that every trailer is properly chocked, which is rare. In one facility, every dock position might have an immaculate set of wheel chocks that are always stored in their cradle, but they’re only immaculate because they aren’t used very often. Dock personnel at another facility might believe truck drivers should chock their own trailers, but all they’re legally required to do is set their brakes. At another facility, perhaps wheel chocks are not even available. They were there at some point in time, but on a frigid winter day they weren’t returned to their cradle and the snowplow picked them up and ripped them off the wall. At yet another facility, some of the chocks have simply broken down from years of use and were never replaced. In each case, the company is not only risking OSHA fines, but also the safety of its dock personnel.

Wheel chocks also must be applied firmly against the closest set of wheels to the dock, or they may not prevent trailer creep. This requires more than just casually tossing the chock near the trailer wheels. A gravelly drive or wet or icy conditions also reduce the effectiveness of wheel chocks. To top it all off, in most cases, trucks can simply pull trailers right over wheel chocks, so they’re generally not very good at preventing early pull-away. 

Communication is Key

Securing a trailer to the loading dock is only part of the reason vehicle restraints are preferred over wheel chocks. Communication between dock personnel and truck drivers is essential for maintaining safety in the loading dock, and wheel chocks do nothing in this area. Vehicle restraints often include light communication systems that know when the trailer is restrained and use interior and exterior lights to communicate this to the truck driver and dock personnel so loading or unloading can safely begin. 

Safety is an Investment

Anyone who thinks vehicle restraints are too expensive should consider that loading dock accidents cost companies an estimated $675 million every year,(3) and the average cost of a worker injury accident is about $189,000 (4). A better way to spend $189,000 is to install automatic vehicle restraints and greatly reduce the chances of a forklift fall-through accident in the first place. 

There is also a possibility that installing restraints at your loading docks may lower your insurance rates. “When you install restraints, you’re acting to not only reduce the chances of employee injury accidents, but also damage to equipment, vehicles, and cargo from accidents,” says Schulze. “It’s definitely worth a call to your insurance provider.”

A Chance Not Worth Taking

It’s been said that forklift fall-through accidents are a one-in-a-million incident. That might not be far from the truth. If a facility has 20 dock positions and each sees 10 trailers per day, and each of those trailers sees 40 forklift entries and exits during loading or unloading, it only takes 25 weeks for this facility to have a million opportunities for a forklift fall-through. Suddenly one-in-a-million feels much too close for comfort.

Don’t Wait Until It’s Too Late

The time to put on your seat belt is not after you’ve been in a car accident. It’s a bit late to install smoke detectors after your home has burned to the ground. If you drive a forklift to load or unload trailers and wheel chocks are all you’ve got, ask your supervisor about vehicle restraints. If you’re a warehouse manager or safety officer, don’t wait until someone gets hurt to put vehicle restraints in the budget. When you install vehicle restraints in your loading docks, rest easy knowing you’ve done the best thing you can do to help minimize the risk of forklift fall-through accidents. 


Jeremy Artz is the Product Manager for loading dock equipment manufacturer Systems, LLC. He has 20 years of marketing and product management experience in various industries from manufacturing to financial. Jeremy specializes in connecting people and products by focusing on how those products can benefit businesses and improve lives.



1 National Safety Council Injury Facts 

2 Industrial Safety & Hygiene News 

3 Material Handling & Logistics 

4 National Safety Council: $39,000 medical cost + estimated $150,000 property damage ($75,000 forklift + $75,000 building repair cost)

Not Just the Warehouse: How Smart Inventory Management Improves Your Ecommerce Overall

Once you start using Smart Inventory Management (SIM) in your ecommerce, you’ll notice lots of benefits mostly surrounding inventory control and workflows. But it can improve some other aspects of your business as well, like marketing, margins, and accounting.

It’s all about data, and this moves far beyond the limitations of preventing out-of-stocks by reordering goods faster. While there are software opportunities, such as using SIM to integrate your warehouse and ecommerce platform to allow customers to see what’s available and shipping times 24/7, we’re looking at bigger business processes that can have an impact on company culture, leadership, and communication.

These are some of the biggest bangs for your buck because they help you keep the business healthy.

Saving money from inexperienced purchasing decisions

One benefit of SIM technology is that you will have up-to-date access to current inventory information. This will prevent the purchase of unnecessary amounts of additional inventory. You will save money by only making purchases you will need.

You are also able to save money by being smarter about how inventory is stored. Locating goods at the proper places within your warehouses or strategically around the country in partner fulfillment locations can save you significantly on the time it takes to ship an order and the cost a shipment takes to reach your average customer.

In the warehouse, SIM helps you move inventory to shelves that reduce walking and movement, making your team faster at getting orders out the door. For partners, SIM can help you track the data you need to get a better understanding of where your customers live and how they shop. So, you’ll be able to select warehouse or fulfillment partners located near to them and provide these locations with the right mix of goods so that they can continually fulfill orders without any risk of running out of stock.

Financial Reporting

Accurately knowing your inventory, storage costs, and more data make it easier for your ecommerce store to understand its overall health. You get a complete snapshot at the expense of goods over their lifetime in your care, especially if you link up SIM with your marketing data.

You get a 360-degree view on each item, including sourcing and production, shipment to your warehouse, storage, delivery to customers, and any returns. You may be surprised to learn what the total margins on your goods are, helping you understand what to promote and sell as well as what products it might be time to phase out of your offers.

Plus, it is in these reports that many companies first acknowledge and get a complete picture of their dead-stock: what never gets sold and just slowly eats away at your overall income.

Give leadership and your accountants the ability to understand the costs of your business entirely and discover what you can best manage and change to maintain a healthy ecommerce offering.

Developing New Sales Opportunities

One reason we really like SIM tools is that they make it easier to track your overall sales and look for patterns. Plus, you can test upsell and cross-sell efforts more easily with all this new data.

Combining your products, through efforts like kitting, allows you to leverage your products for the best return both in the immediate and the long-term. You can sell multiple items together, reduce inventory levels (and related storage costs), and even get rid of things that are sitting on shelves for too long.

Customers like it because it’s convenient for them when the products work together. If you add the right set of products, kits can make your offers more useful, less costly, or start a need to reorder from you. This is common in most industries, and one of the best examples are razors that come packaged with a series of disposable heads. The customer gets the handle and heads together and then has to go back to you to get the next set.

Returns and More

Another area to consider for your smart inventory management system heads back to the warehouse but touches on many of the other elements we’ve discussed: returned goods.

Returns present a significant problem for most ecommerce businesses. You have to figure out how to approve and process the customer’s request, handle the items themselves as they come back to you, potentially repackage and resell these, and eat much of the sale cost even if you’re charging a restocking fee.

Customers returning goods tend to be unhappy and want you to automate as much of this process as possible, and they expect an email from you to include things like a shipping label.

SIM tools can integrate with your order system to generate the information the customer needs automatically. Giving your own shipping labels within an SMI also helps you out by updating your team with package tracking data, so they know what to expect and when. You’re able to manage customer expectations and prep your warehouse, minimizing the disruption.

The same system can also record information from customers about the nature of a return, giving you a feedback loop into product development and sales, helping you adjust based on price, materials, or other information.

We’re seeing a rise SIMs on their own as well as integrated with tools like ERPs because being smarter about your inventory cuts down on costs, keeps your warehouses efficient, and makes it easier to manage your business. It’s time for every ecommerce store to start considering a smarter tech stack that includes inventory controls.

Improve Customer Service

It all comes down to customer service, one of the core differentiators in the world of ecommerce. With so many drop-shipping companies, Amazon sellers, small shops, and global partners, it can be challenging to stand out on product selection alone.

So, one way companies are building a competitive advantage is by developing best-in-class customer service. Inventory management is a core part of this even though it doesn’t seem like it. Inventory management allows you to keep filling orders and even get ahead of spikes in orders that are new or seasonal by giving you smarter business analytics.

When you’re ready to ship immediately, instead of having to wait for a new restock, customers are happier. They also like it when your returns policy and other policies are clear and easy to understand. Greater knowledge of your inventory makes it easier to control those types of concerns, allowing you to simplify any steps your customers have to take.

Run a smoother business and have happier customers just by developing better control of your inventory.

Jake Rheude is the Director of Marketing for Red Stag Fulfillment, an ecommerce fulfillment warehouse that was born out of ecommerce. He has years of experience in ecommerce and business development. In his free time, Jake enjoys reading about business and sharing his own experience with others.

Warehouse Tech Middle East 2019

Warehouse Tech Middle East 2019 brings together the leading logistics, technology solution providers, warehousing leaders and startups to discuss and learn about warehouse technology advancements.

Taking place in beautiful Dubai, this exciting program covers various trends, advancements and solutions including drones, Digital Warehousing, Industry 4.0 effect, Internet of Things, AI & Robotics, Automation, Cloud Computing in WMS and Data Analytics.

If your company is looking for competitive and robust education and insight into the advancements found with warehousing technology, this conference is for you. Take a proactive approach to education and join industry leaders from around the world for a day packed with game-changing information, discussions, and networking opportunities.

The one-day program will take place on June 25 with an impressive list of speakers and exhibitors. Don’t miss the opportunity to learn more about the digital warehousing market and register your spot today.


As 2019 planning takes shape, consider your company warehousing needs beyond the numbers and take a hard look at the logistics structure from the last year. This begins with an honest assessment of what is and what isn’t working from an operations standpoint as well as employee satisfaction and culture, digital optimizations, labor and productivity, and risk management.

Such companies as Datex Corp., a leading solutions provider, spotlight the importance and top priorities that should be considered the most important for implementation and success initiatives. It goes without saying that technology innovations are among the most important logistics solutions to secure the best outcomes for the company and its customers.

Integrating technology is great, but it must be the right technology to work for your business. Datex states that to maximize profitability, companies need a warehouse management system specifically developed for 3PL operations that provides: real-time visibility; a full spectrum of 3PL billing capabilities; visibility into your inventory status, orders and shipments; and a streamlined process from start to finish. Out of the six solutions provided for warehousing logistics, the common theme surrounds risk prevention, eliminating inefficiencies, capturing business and leveraging technology innovation options.

Take into consideration a dedicated warehousing solution for your company if you’re new to the sector. Why does this matter? By investing in professional management and logistics solutions providers, the company is set up for success without risking initiatives and business deals that could produce disappointing results. Additionally, these providers can assist with creating networking and 3PL relationship opportunities, expanding your business goals and overall vision. Not only do these providers help lay the groundwork for operations, they are the middle man in communicating and assessing 3PL operations.

Another option is where a single distribution center cost is split among several clients. The resources at hand are consistently available among the shared warehouse space that all clients can leverage, as seen with the ODW Logistics solutions model.

Warehouse innovation is on the 2019 horizon and will make a significant mark in the warehousing logistics sector. In an article titled, “Taking a Look into Supply Chain’s Crystal Ball,” drones take the spotlight for warehouse solutions because “50 percent or more of the total cost of the logistics journey is from last-mile delivery” while drones provide a solution from added flexibility.

In 2019, warehousing companies might want to consider the use of unmanned aerial vehicles as an option for delivery. The top two of key differentiators companies consider drivers for change in warehouse usage was the need for lowered transportation costs (at 42.7 percent) while others cited the need for shortened delivery times and (40.5 percent), according to a Zebra Technology survey.

Looking ahead at the changes to come in 2020, Zebra also shows that in 2015, only 55.1 percent of companies were leveraging load optimization and performance monitoring and anticipating its integration by 2020. This number will jump to 61.6 percent, according to the global survey results.

The report goes on to explain that explicit costs and benefits should not be the total focus and only make up a part of the bigger picture. It states that, “Not only do we need to improve the technological advancement of our warehouse, but we need to update our thought process also. When considering RoI on implementing technology, don’t only look at the investment as cost and recovery of cost, but think of how this creates value for your customers, how you improve the productivity of your employees, what impact does it have on your culture and public image, will embracing technology give an advantage over competitors, and so on.”

Zebra’s survey also revealed some interesting insight into the level of difficulty experienced by companies seeking to change the supply-chain process. A total of 32.2 percent noted that it is “somewhat difficult” to introduce changes in 2015. That number is predicted to drop down to 22.1 percent in 2020.

Refreshing your operational approach to warehousing operations should be handled with caution and care. Don’t rush trying to integrate a new technology solution without checking the other boxes first. UPS cautions this practice for next steps and transforming your current business model.

“Most operations were designed based on what worked in the past, and, of course, that can’t necessarily deliver what customers expect today,” says Simon Bhadra, senior manager for the UPS Industrial Distribution customer segment. “There are valid business reasons that customers demand changes from their intermediaries or are bypassing them altogether. Pressure to cut costs, reduce turn times, for example. It’s difficult to make meaningful changes and still be productive and keep customers happy. People say it’s like trying to build an airplane while it’s in the air, and that’s pretty accurate.”

UPS offers three strategic tips to remember when re-evaluating changes and improvements needed for warehouse and distribution efforts. The first is to “Break the Inertia” through an open-minded look into the current state of operations. Just because operations are running up to par does not mean there isn’t room for improvement and efficiencies. Again, they warn to proceed with caution. It’s a fine balance between evaluating what’s not working and applying a new strategy and not going idle.

“Very often we see companies overhaul their operations in response to some kind of catalyst,” says Nancy Pagely, UPS development director. “But making changes without a clear strategy increases the chances of taking a costly wrong turn.”

The second strategy offered focuses on the importance of the customer and providing a sense of “ease, convenience and flexibility.” Bhadra states that, “It’s really critical that operators set aside the knowledge they’ve amassed on customers in order to get a fresh look at what’s going on out there. It takes unconventional thinking and a broader set of collaborators to make smart changes.”

The final piece of advice is taking an honest assessment of your company and don’t let the fear of failure determine your company’s next steps.

“Understanding where you want to be can reduce the number of doors to look behind before making decisions and investments,” explains UPS Customer Solutions consultant Mark Modesti. “As long as you plant a flag and build a dynamic roadmap that lets you adapt as needed, you’ll be ahead of the game.”