Operating a modern warehouse involves a complex mix of intake and outtake procedures, internal organizing practices, and a delicate balance of manpower and technology. Problems at any one of these steps can impact your entire operation, so it is important to ensure that the processes your warehouse depends on are dependable themselves.
Ultimately, a lot of what goes on in a warehouse boils down to inventory coming in and going back out in a timely and orderly fashion, so those procedures are a good place to start when optimizing your warehouse for success. Here are some tips for managing your warehouse inventory that could help keep your business efficient and profitable.
Every industry is unique, which means that every warehouse catering to a particular industry should be customized to fit that industry’s unique needs. Slotting items together based on key characteristics is a great way to simplify the picking process, especially when multiple similar products are often ordered together.
Similarly, making good use of available space can be crucial to running a tightly organized warehouse. In addition to prioritizing shelving over shipping containers, it may also help to think vertically when storing goods. Your usable warehouse space extends both out to the walls and up to the ceiling, so why not use all the space you have?
Of course, the most fundamental truth of warehouse management is that a clean warehouse is a functional one. Make it a monthly or weekly practice to have your warehouse undergo a thorough cleaning, and in the meantime, keep aisles and high-traffic areas free of barriers to foot and forklift traffic. Even a half-hour dedicated to cleanup can have a huge impact on the efficiency of your warehouse and workers.
Manual labeling systems can lead to mistakes, so automating this process is virtually essential to keeping an organized warehouse. Every item in the modern warehouse should have a barcode for easy identification and sorting. This also helps minimize the risks of unseen errors that handwritten order tracking often entails. Depending on the size of your warehouse, it may also be wise to invest in an automatic data collection system that can be run through mobile devices by pickers on the floor.
Furthermore, it is a good practice to use data from outside the warehouse to manage inventory inside. If you know what your high-volume products are, you can organize your inventory to make picking those items easier and faster.
From the time an item enters your warehouse to the time it leaves, you should be able to track where it is and where it should be going. While technology can be a big help in this regard, it is also important to make sure employees know how to use that technology.
A list of standard procedures prominently displayed in a dedicated receiving area of your warehouse is often the best way to achieve that outcome. It may also help to adopt a cycle counting system for inventory tracking, so that you can have up-to-date numbers regarding available inventory more often than once every calendar year.
Finally, the most significant change you could make to streamline inventory management is minimizing the amount of inventory you have on hand. If implemented effectively, lean inventory practices can ensure that you only have what you actually need on a day-to-day basis, decluttering your warehouse and making for more efficient and cost-effective order fulfillment.