Streamlining Your Warehouse Operations

How you manage day-to-day operations in your warehouse can have a tremendous impact on both functionality and profitability. While establishing and maintaining a consistent organizational plan is essential, it can be difficult to know in advance which practices may be best for your specific needs.

That being said, there are a few key ways in which almost any warehouse could streamline their operations and maximize productivity. Following these tips could go a long way towards optimizing operational and management procedures in your warehouse.

Lean Warehousing is Efficient Warehousing

In virtually every warehouse, efficiency is a matter of everything having a place, everything being in its proper place, and everything having a universal procedure for getting to and from its proper place when in use. One of the best ways to ensure all these elements come together in your warehouse is by implementing one of the core principles of Lean, which is 5S:

  1. Sort – Establish categories and criteria that allow for logical organization of inventory
  2. Set – Arrange warehouse setup and layout to create efficient pick paths and mitigate process bottlenecks
  3. Shine – Prioritize not only clean workspaces, but clear expectations for workplace behavior and safety practices
  4. Standardize – Ensure every worker knows and buys into warehouse procedures, eliminate wasteful processes, and cut down on excess inventory
  5. Sustain – Constantly review, analyze, and improve on existing processes as they are implemented

The exact ways in which these principles should be put into effect vary from warehouse to warehouse, but their central purpose remains the same: to make it clear where inefficiencies are and to streamline the process for fixing them.

Movement Reduction is Key to Productivity

As part of your labeling procedures, every item should have a clear destination before it leaves receiving. Just from a glance at the label or computer listing, you should know what bin or shelf an item should be stored in, and exactly where in the warehouse that item is physically located.

This can be streamlined even further by storing top-selling products closer to the shipping dock and less popular items toward the back of your warehouse. Likewise, if you store inventory vertically in racks, big sellers should be closer to ground level for easier access.

Along these lines, it can be a big help to plan out the path that pickers should take in advance and make sure they go directly to the container a product will be shipped in, rather than a bin midway through the process. These steps, along with thorough and ongoing cycle counts, can greatly reduce the number of motions needed to get inventory from point A to point B. This, in turn, can save your employees a lot of time — and save you a lot of organizational stress.

Consider Investing in Technological Solutions

The most efficient warehouses are usually paperless ones. In addition to printed labels and signage, every piece of inventory should have a barcode to make identifying picks as easy as a quick scan with a mobile device. Voice-activated picking software may be an additional step to consider if a paperless system works well for your business.

Technology can also help you manage age-old problems like day-to-day overstaffing. In addition to your standard warehouse management system, it can be helpful to invest in a labor management system. This way, you can track how much labor you need for different levels of demand and plan ahead for various situations.

In the same vein, platforms like HapiGig allow you to apply high-quality on-demand flex labor to any situation your business may run into, whether it’s seasonal shifts in demand or a quick replacement for sick time. While your existing WMS is crucial in and of itself, supplementing it with other tech solutions could make the difference between a functional warehouse and maximally efficient one.