The worldwide supply chain is currently trying to keep up with the effects of the global pandemic, and flexibility is vital for warehouses in this unpredictable environment. Some businesses are seeing high demand, while others are experiencing a decline due to shifting consumer behaviors.
Fortunately, warehouse managers can learn a lot from these challenges. This will assist them in meeting market demand and avoiding future problems. As the supply chain becomes more stable, warehouses adapt to meet customers’ changing needs.
Indeed, now is the moment to consider the long term. Improving your warehouse management system may help reduce the effects of abrupt shifts in business. Likewise, a well-managed warehouse can improve your company’s productivity.
Here’s a look at some of the best practices for establishing an efficient warehouse management system.
- Create A Process Map
A process map illustrates the phases of a work activity and the individuals engaged in each step. Warehouse managers can use this during the planning phase to ensure that every aspect of the process is covered and that there are no surprises down the line.
When mapping a process, all you have to do is draw a box for each phase and link them with arrows to create a flow diagram. Some of the best 3PL software solutions have functions or tools to assist the manager with creating these diagrams, making it a time-saving exercise instead of a draining part of the planning.
Start by figuring out the main steps. This process analysis is a great way to get ideas from your team members on how to improve. After you figure out where you can remove unnecessary steps and time from the process, write down the best way to do it so that it can be used in all of your operations.
- Ensure Proper Labelling
Labels have been moving inventory for decades. They’re undoubtedly one of the most underappreciated components of warehouse operations. Take the time to audit and map your labeling process and reduce insignificant steps.
You should also make sure to label all warehouse stock—clear labels make it easier to identify things before transferring or transporting them. Depending on your business’s demands and size, you can also use barcodes. Make sure it’s updated and that no codes are reused.
Moreover, don’t forget to label chemicals or things that are potentially dangerous to human health, need special handling, or are poisonous. It’s also vital that your team members stay informed of any potential hazards. Doing so will greatly decrease the risk of any accidents in the warehouse.
- Track Your Freight
It’s critical to track your freight. You’re already responsible for deliveries and dispatches; now, it’s time to involve your suppliers to enhance inventory management and accuracy.
Negotiate service level agreements (SLAs), delivery schedules, and compliance requirements with suppliers to ensure more regular and reliable deliveries. By implementing this process for arriving freight, you can also replicate it for outgoing freight, boosting warehouse turnaround time.
Client support teams can respond more effectively and transparently to inquiries, delays, and stock concerns if they have more information about the delivery process and how it works. An efficient software solution to incorporate all the information in one place makes it easier for staff to know where each item is during the process.
Applying labels with barcodes can improve freight tracking by using scanners to link the products to their barcode automatically. Using scanners to detect the unique code for each parcel translates the information to the system, where it becomes immediately available for staff to view.
- Provide Quality Training
Providing extensive and constant training for your team members is paramount to a smooth operation because, without a complete understanding of what they’re doing, there’s no way for them to improve their efficiency.
Training should include information on the products they’re handling, health and safety procedures, and, of course, any technology or equipment they use while working in your warehouse. Without this training, there could be injuries to the staff, or the company could lose products through human error.
Managers must be well-trained too. They should be able to understand and identify efficiency trigger points. And this should be a continuous process with frequent evaluations and updates on new technologies, as well as recommendations on how to resolve operational difficulties quickly.
The company could see a significant increase in their income with efficiency improvements as the warehouse would be more productive. The rise in product turnover is always good news for any company wanting to improve its bottom line.
- Use Third-Party Logistics
Third-party logistics (3PLs) is the process of outsourcing supply chain operations and logistics to a third party. 3PLs provide receiving, storage, packing, and shipping services. Some 3PL firms also offer value-added logistics services, including inventory management, assembly, and packing. 3PL companies provide services beyond simply storing and transporting goods.
They offer increased floor space, security, and damage protection, as well as highly efficient storage and shipping solutions. There’s no need to invest in new facilities and systems if you use a 3PL partner. Third-party logistics allow smaller organizations to focus on marketing and merchandising operations that are critical to their success.
Companies that outsource to similar businesses should ensure that there are formal agreements to meet the demands of their clients. When there is one weak link in the chain, it could mean that the whole operation could come crashing down.
Services rendered by a third party should always remain professional and suit the needs of the company they agree to assist. They both could suffer losses if there is any miscommunication during their interactions.
- Implement Cross Docking
Cross-docking might save you time if you have many fast-moving items coming in. Instead of restocking the shelves with these items, move them to a staging area where they can be scanned and recorded.
If possible, the loading port should be within easy walking distance of this temporary staging area. As soon as the items are ready for the next leg of their journey, your team members can take them off the shelf and get them out the door without having to search for them.
Cross-docking helps companies boost inventory turnover. It also minimizes distribution and material handling expenses. Effectively implementing this technique results in cost savings by reducing the need for packaging and storage.
- Strive For Inventory Visibility And Organization
Inventory visibility simply refers to the ability to determine how much inventory you have on hand. It’s concerned with ensuring that inventory data accurately represents reality. This enables more precise data on stock, order monitoring and tracking, and more.
While inventory visibility has always been crucial to any retail operation, it has become even more critical as more businesses transition to an omni-channel order fulfillment and distribution strategy.
On the other hand, organizing items in your warehouse is crucial so that your team members can easily access them. This applies to both your warehouse’s fundamental structure and your stock-keeping units (SKUs).
Sort SKUs wisely and utilize slotting to put products together based on size, velocity, seasonality, and other factors to save time hunting for specific items. You can also define specific zones to simplify order selection and replenishing. Place high-volume, high-moving SKUs next to shipping facilities so that your team members can quickly get them.
A warehouse management system (WMS) software is a great place to start. It can integrate systems and processes, strategically organize data, improve inventory visibility, and reduce demand volatility to ensure peak inventory management warehouse performance.
- Maximize Your Storage Space
Effective warehouse storage requires that everything is in its right place. Inventory control and storage contribute directly to warehouse efficiency. Therefore, your warehouse should have storage solutions to make things more accessible and organized.
Practical storage methods also maximize available space. In most situations, this means using your vertical space to store more items and free up spots for other operational requirements. For example, vertical racks and containers have been utilized in millions of warehouses worldwide.
Racks and containers are not only useful in terms of space, but they’re also safe. Fundamentally, steel racks and storage containers safeguard your items from loss and damage.
As a business, you should work on enhancing warehouse operations and workforce practices. Simplify both to increase efficiency, cost, and production. By simplifying your layout for flow, organization, access, and reference, you’ll minimize the amount of time your team members spend ‘lost’ in the labyrinth of your warehouse.
You can save time by streamlining your workforce’s operations, removing redundant tasks, and using key performance indicators (KPIs) to examine if your warehouse management system isn’t working as well as it should.