The topic of warehousing barely registered six months ago. Most businesses were quite happy chugging along without thinking about storage or inventory. Then COVID-19 arrived, and everything changed. Firms are now crying out for solutions that will allow them to get the most out of the business models and adapt to changing times.
Managing a warehouse isn’t easy. Logistics companies spend years perfecting their craft. And so the average business owner can find it hard to master.
In this post, we’re going to look at some of the ways you can make your warehouse more efficient. By the end of it, you should have a working knowledge of how you can cut your costs and improve customer service.
Keep It Clean
We tend to think of warehouses as giant, dirty, dusty units for storing all the things that we need to keep our businesses ticking over. But that’s not the case at all. If you go to the warehouses of most modern companies, you’ll discover that they’re more like clean rooms. There’s barely a spec of dirt. And operatives are forever washing their hands and equipment.
Keeping warehouses clean makes sense for a variety of reasons. First, it helps keep the products free from contamination. It doesn’t reflect well on your business if customers receive items covered in dust, dirt, or worse.
Second, it helps to keep the environment safe and avoid misplaced orders. Warehousing is a complex enterprise, and things can go wrong fast. You can put something in the wrong place and never find it again, leading to shrinkage. Cleanliness goes some way to prevent this kind of occurrence from dogging your business.
Improve Your Inventory Control Systems
Inventory control systems are usually software solutions that tell you where you should place incoming goods for optimal efficiency. The idea is to make the best possible use of the space available to you while minimizing voids.
In principle, it sounds easy, but it is virtually impossible to do by hand. Volumes are too high to keep track of all incoming and outgoing orders manually. Fortunately, quality inventory control systems let you bypass this problem. You just set up the system using a system of tags and labeling. Then it’ll faithfully record your inventory history, making planning much more manageable.
Improve Your Layout Design
Warehouses are always experimenting with their layout to improve efficiency. But, interestingly, the type of arrangement you choose relates to the size of your enterprise. There are no blanket solutions.
If your company is growing and demands on your warehouse increase, you’ll want to conduct a review of how you’re using your existing space. Industry experts suggest you radically overhaul your warehouse around once every three to five years. When you do this, you’ll inevitably find natural space-saving solutions and more efficient ways of doing things.
Changing your product lines radically makes warehouse audits a necessity. Often you need to revise them over time to make the best possible use of the asset.
Improve Your Infrastructure
Warehouses aren’t just generic sheds containing products. They tend to vary in quality considerably from one unit to another. Therefore, many companies focus heavily on improving their supporting infrastructure to make them safer and more efficient.
Upgrading to stainless steel trench drains can help deal with surface run-off problems at a low cost. You can quickly channel chemicals or stormwater without corrosion, keeping your floors clean and dry. You can also upgrade the flooring to better cope with the action and movement of forklift trucks. The list of possibilities is practically endless. All sorts of upgrades are available.
Start Introducing Robots
Like it or not, robots have entered the warehousing market, and they’re here to stay. They offer businesses the opportunity to eliminate costly wage bills and replace them with mechanical workers who will do many tasks on the factory floor.
Introducing robots can seem like a costly endeavor, but it is well worth it. Companies need to get ahead of this emerging trend and take advantage of all the saving opportunities. Remember, labor is cheap, but robots could push the costs down further while also providing greater accuracy.
You don’t have to go from human operatives to humanoid robots replacing workers in a single step. No warehouse in the world currently operates that way. Instead, you can pick an off-the-shelf solution from one of the many providers and run with it. Amazon did it with Kiva, so nothing is stopping you.
Create Zones Based On Pick Type
Warehouse managers continually debate the best way to organize all the goods in their care. For some, the solution is to arrange everything alphabetically and hope for the best. For others, it is stacked according to how often particular items sell.
Now, though, state of the art practice is to arrange items by “pick type.” The reason for this comes down to efficiency (as most things do in the warehouse industry). When items have a similar pick type, they’re easier to store and group. Multiple orders of related goods are also much more straightforward to fulfill.
The system is so popular that some of the top companies in the world use it. Cisco, for instance, says that it prefers organizing warehouses by pick type. It makes a massive difference.
Widen Your Aisles
When organizing a warehouse, it can be tempting for companies to pack aisles together as tightly as possible to open up more space. But sometimes practices like this make them less efficient.
The reasons for this are pretty straightforward. If forklifts can’t maneuver, you’ll lose efficiency. Leaving massive gaps between rows of shelves strikes you as wasteful if you’re the type of manager who loves to make the best use of resources. But long-term, spacing things out helps to save you money. If operatives can easily access products, they will work much faster. Plus, more space will help to reduce their stress levels.
Pack Items Tightly
Most warehouses use pallet-based systems to organize goods and keep everything neat and tidy. Approaches like these work most of the time -, especially for grocers. But some companies can’t operate in this manner. Access needs to be more granular.
In this case, the packing of items becomes more important. Typically, this requires a bespoke solution. Ultimately, though, it needs to be compact and easily accessible so that it doesn’t compromise workflows.
Reduce Picking Travel Time