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.