When your operation suffers from layers of inefficiencies, it can be a recipe for trouble. It’s no secret that expectations on your warehouse are rapidly increasing in correlation with customer demands for quick and accurate shipping.
These underlying problems aren’t just numbers on a management report; The ripple effects are frustrated managers and unmotivated employees within the business. Not to mention, customers who have a bad ordering experience with your company may not come back a second time.
These warehouse management challenges can be decreased substantially or avoided all together if you put the following essential steps in place:
1. Build Clear Processes
Be sure to put procedures in place for every aspect of your warehouse operations – from receiving and grouping orders to exception handling and shipping. The key is to make them as easy as possible to understand and follow. As a manager, do the training necessary to ensure employees know who’s supposed to be doing what – and when.
2. Don’t Discount the Practical
- Lighting: Just like in your home, a simple way to save energy and cut costs is to update old, outdated lighting systems. Distribution centers often have mercury vapor lamps or sodium halide lights. These cast a cone-shaped light and use a lot of energy. Switching to high-intensity fluorescents is recommended.
- Cleanliness: If you set a weekly clean-up schedule, your staff can find things easier. Simple, yet practical. You never know when you’ll magically find returns, damaged goods or other long-lost items, when there’s nowhere to hide!
Another aspect is worker efficiency. Warehouse staff can move around your facility more quickly when there aren’t piles of boxes, etc. in their way. And if you have a clean workplace – employees will naturally have more pride in it and be more likely to protect your assets and your name.
- Signs: Don’t expect each employee to “just know” where everything is being stored – especially if you have a number of newer staff. Give them some help by creating large, colorful signs that will direct them to the correct aisles. Strategically placed warehouse maps are also big helps in productivity.
3. Select the Right Technology
Modern technology such as handheld barcode scanners and the associated software and wireless capabilities will naturally get you ahead of the game. It will eliminate keystrokes upfront as well as time to fix administrative/input errors in the long run.
Remember your employees’ point of view. Change is not always easy for most, especially when they’ve done it the same way for years. Before implementing a new system, introduce them to the software and hardware in consideration. This makes them feel valued and part of the selection process. If they are comfortable with the technology, user adoption and implementation will be a much smoother process.
4. Document Procedural Changes
If a process is changed, make sure managers are closely keeping track. This data is important to compare productivity against prior procedures, providing important metrics to make more informed decisions in the future.
5. Walk the Floor
Warehouse management teams who are engaged with their employees can make all the difference in the world. When they do regular rounds on the warehouse floor and have conversations with employees, they can be more in tune with daily challenges. In turn, managers have the decision-making power to make tweaks in processes to gain efficiency.
Investing in modern technology is very important for today’s warehouses. Combining intuitive systems with practical day-to-day initiatives will make for happier workers, efficient operations and return customers.