How to Run an Efficient Warehouse Without Getting Stress
Having an efficient warehouse will drastically improve in order fulfillment and have the right supply chain level—the level of efficiency in which your warehouse runs can make or break your business’ bottom line. With the surge in e-commerce sales due to the COVID-19 pandemic, warehouses have struggled to keep up with handling the rise in order volumes.
Running an effective warehouse means utilizing warehouse management software systems, labeling and racking, having designated picking, receiving areas, and space optimization. Warehouses that have the proper systems in place are in a position to receive merchandise, process orders, load, and ship products, and serve their customers. Unfortunately, this is easier said than done. The warehouse can be an incredibly stressful environment for both managers and workers. That’s why we’ve written a comprehensive guide to share practical tips to remove the stress out of managing a warehouse and avoid some of the common pitfalls.
Reorganize Your Warehouse
If your warehouse isn’t well organized, it can be challenging to put away new shipment items or find items in the warehouse. In the event your warehouse employees spend a lot of time strolling in aisles, bins, or shelves to find an item, you know that it’s time to improve your warehouse organization. Your warehouse should feel like a clean home. If it feels intimidating to walk through, then it’s no wonder why you’re stressed. Here are a few tips for restructuring your warehouse.
1. Create a Clean and Accurate Warehouse
Try to dedicate about one to two hours every week to cleaning and re-organizing your warehouse space. Just doing this will provide stress relief, knowing that you’re working in a clean environment. You may find misplaced or missing items that you previously lost. Make cleaning easy by having a checklist and calendar items for each task. Some cleaning may be done daily, while others might be done only once a month. For example, sweeping your floors should be done every day. Dusting racks can be done every month. Do not let bins overflow; try to empty them daily to keep the smell away. You can also assign each employee a cleaning zone so that everyone takes part in keeping their area clean. All employees should be responsible for wiping down equipment, sweeping, and making sure their workstation is clean before leaving. Lastly, ensure you have cleaning material readily available like mops, sweeps, dustpans, cleaning sprays, etc.
2. Use Stackable Shelf Bins
Having small items or parts lying around can be extremely messy and be hard to find. Furthermore, to best utilize your warehouse space, you need to think about its horizontal layout and vertical layout. Using stackable shelf bins solves both concerns. These bins can store small products and can be stored on desks, shelves, or on top of anything you see fit. If your warehouse is stacking containers, boxes, or products on top of each other, definitely use stack racks instead. Stacking containers or other items can cause product damage, which will jeopardize the relationship between you and your customers. These racks are incredibly durable and can be lifted with a forklift to increase the loading process.
3. Label All Products and Implement a Labeling System
Imagine how hard it would be to find items in a grocery store without any labels. Not having labels only slows down the picking and loading process of your workers. Make their lives easier by labeling and tracking all of your inventory. Having the SKU number isn’t enough. Include the type of product and description along with the SKU, so you can easily find products.
Additionally, you need to incorporate a labeling system. Manual inventory identification simply leads to human error. Errors just lead to a frazzled workplace since you’ll receive delays, incorrect shipments, and other issues. Use a barcode system where you can quickly scan the item using a handheld barcode scanner so that documentation is faster.
4. Create Organized Workstations
Investing in a proper industrial workstation for each employee can go a long way towards having a more productive and healthier work environment. Provide your staff members with an ergonomic and comfortable workstation to help them with the assembly, packing, picking, quality control, inspection, manifesting, and other warehouse operations. The International Journal of Engineering published a study that found a strong correlation between workers’ productivity and workplace ergonomics. This makes sense since stations that aren’t ergonomically designed cause greater fatigue, which negatively affects productivity.
Two essential types of workstations are the cantilever workbenches and the shipping workstations. A cantilever workbench is used to suit tasks like picking, shipping, assembly, and receiving. This station helps to have all necessary items within arm’s length like dividers, steel shelves, lights, bin rails, whiteboards, power strips, and flat-screen display arms. Shipping stations can be better equipped to prepare manifests, weigh packages, and prepare shipping schedules. You can have items like printers, scanners, and computers all within arms reach to improve the shipping process.
5. Identify Aisles and Ensure Adequate Aisle Space
Although identifying racks or products is important, you need to signable for broader areas of your facility. This way, staff members can easily find which aisles a particular product would be located. Keep labels on the floor stack and pick path areas to help operators easily maneuver around the warehouse. There should be a dock and aisle signage to improve the traffic flow with the warehouse. The signage and labels should create a linear flow from the dock to the pick area. Even have a floor plan so that workers can easily find a section if they ever get lost. This would be similar to a map of a mall where shoppers can find their favorite store.
6. Pack Goods Tightly
Most goods will be stored in a one-size-fits-all type of storage container. This means that the PVC pipe will be placed in the same container as the pump’s replacement valve. The piping won’t even take up ten percent of the storage container, while the pump can fill up about 85 percent. This is a poor use of space and can easily fill up your storage racks and isles quickly. It’s important to have a variety of sizes when it comes to containers, boxes, or padded wrappings to maximize your space instead of wasting space in your facility.
7. Utilize Slotting
Keeping unrelated items together is a recipe for a cluttered warehouse. Imagine placing the clothes in the same area like the kitchen products. Your brain will have a hard time remembering where each category of product is located. Slotting means to keep similar types of items together so that they’re easy to find. You can define similar types of items as physical size, frequency of picking the same items together, velocity, seasonality, and other categories so that the picking process is much smoother. Utilizing slotting helps eliminate the back and forth walking to scan SKU numbers from different warehouse sections.
Use a Warehouse Management System
A warehouse management system is a software that manages supply chain fulfillment operations and offers visibility into an entire inventory. A WMS software optimizes the picking and shipping of orders, guides inventory put-away and receiving, and automates your inventory replenishment. A warehouse management system can be installed separately or come with your Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system. One of the biggest advantages of WMS software is that it provides accurate tracking and inventory counts. Warehouse audits are usually incredibly time-consuming and filled with human errors. You’ll be able to track every component of your warehouse to see whether it’s shipped, compiled, or received.
Additionally, WMS software will streamline customer service procedures. It can be stressful if your warehouse workers have to deal with a fragmented customer service workflow. There can be much wasted time with back and forth messages and filtering through multiple parties or departments before finally reaching the right person. Since all of the data is in one place for everyone to access, you can relay information to different parties. A WMS can locate items faster so that workers can have them distributed accordingly. This enables workers to see real-time inventory data so that the entire shipping process is sped up.
One of the great aspects of a WMS tool is simulating how to utilize your floor spacing and labor to reduce waste effectively. This software will tell you where to store certain products, materials, and equipment so that you can optimize your workflow, which will reduce stress. With the simulation feature, you can place shelves, pallets, and other equipment to view how your space would look and how each travel time will be affected when moving around the facility.
Empower Your Staff
Employees may feel stressed out if they’re exhausted or feel pressured to finish tasks. But if they do not have the right training or tools to help them, it can be disastrous. A study completed by Kros found that only 7% of the surveyed companies found their employees to be most productive. While 72% of respondents feel their employees need to be more engaged and need more up to date technology to help, they feel more engaged.
They may stress themselves out too thin to get substandard results. Help them out by providing them with barcode scanners or using their smartphones to scan items and perform cycle counts. If it takes a shorter time to complete tasks, they will feel more motivated to complete them since they are productive.
Additionally, try to provide constructive feedback by having managers track progress and check-in with their workers. Always try to give your workers a goal to strive towards, whether that’s a faster time or getting more work done. You can also provide simple rewards to help them feel excited to hit their goals. However, as a manager, you should set clear expectations for your worker’s responsibilities and roles, provide ongoing feedback, and discuss long term skills and career growth.
Improving efficiencies in a warehouse requires sticking to inventory production controls and other warehouse management processes. Typically, without a structure in place and routines to follow, chaos will occur. Managers need to incorporate the tactics and strategies listed in this article to improve your warehouse’s workflow and efficiency. Once everything becomes decluttered, and workers know what to expect, they can work in a place with reduced stress. Reduced stress means happier workers and increased productivity from your staff. Remember to help them out by making their life easier. Invest in technology like warehouse management systems, barcode scanners, stackable bins, ergonomic workstations, and other tools necessary for improved efficiency.