Warehouse operations are a very important part of any company’s business flow. To ensure that a company ships and receives stock in time to fulfill orders, efficient warehouse operations must be put in place. By initializing best practices, companies can cut time and costs, thus influencing better operations.
Here are fifteen of the best practices to warehouse operations that can be implemented today.
Best Practices to Warehouse Operations to Introduce
1. Automatic Data Collection
Automatically collecting data not only cuts the time down tremendously but also significantly reduces the likelihood of error. Most warehouse and distribution centers are running barcodes and radio frequency identification (RFID) that allows them to expedite the data collection process. Any step that can be automated means one less step to managing. In addition, data is much more accurate this way.
2. Hands-Free Order Selection
Technology is constantly advancing, especially for those responsible for warehouse operations. Going beyond handheld scanners, a technology introduced wrist-mounted barcode units, voice pick, pick- or put-to-light systems now accelerate the picking process. These systems not only expedite operations but makes the picking and order selection process much more accurate.
3. Record Every Movement as a Transaction
Any step in the warehouse process that cannot be tracked or recorded as a transaction should be eliminated. More often these steps are unnecessary and should be added to the “fix it” list. When these circumstances occur, they are referred to as a “turnback” and should be reported. This enables those in command to find solutions to not let this happen next time.
4. Streamline Processes with Data Synchronization
Data synchronization helps improve visibility and streamlines data integration tasks for warehouse operations. This approach standardizes product data at the system level and helps by updating data repositories with the latest SKU information directly from suppliers. This integration is very cost-effective, reduces conflicts, and eliminates re-keying processes.
5. Use Unique Tracking Numbers
Sometimes serial numbers may be identical between two products. If this is used as the tracking number, duplicate numbers will cause confusion because there is no other way to tell two assets apart. By using unique tracking numbers different from serial numbers will help solve this problem.
6. Implement an Efficient Returns Process
Product returns are imminent. Not only are they sometimes painful to deal with, they are fundamentally complex to warehouse operations. All returning items must be identified, assigned to an account, assigned a disposition and then sorted for processing. This process is difficult to automate and challenging with simple pen-and-paper documentation. There are specialized systems, like Warehouse Management Systems or stand-alone, that can support the returns process if utilized appropriately.
7. Conduct “ABC” Analysis
ABC is a hierarchy of the most valuable items to the least in terms of dollar value (denoted by A as the most important, C as the least important). By conducting an ABC analysis, this allows full control on where to focus time and resources for items that bring the most value. This process is also referred to as the Inventory Categorization Method.
8. Practice Ongoing Cycle Count
Implementing an ongoing cycle count is another way to cut time and costs significantly. Instead of doing a full inventory audit every few weeks/months, introducing bi-weekly/weekly cycle count programs will help gauge inventory accuracy better with minimal disruption. By focusing on cycle counts for high-demand shipments will ensure crucial items are replenished on time.
9. Schedule Simultaneous Shipments
Warehouses with multiple dock setups have an opportunity to streamline offloading labor. By scheduling shipments to arrive simultaneously, this prevents separate setup & breakdowns and consolidates the labor. Doing so enables high-performance and contributes to timeliness that increases warehouse operations efficiencies.
10. Minimize Unnecessary Steps
Eliminate unnecessary steps when appropriate. Instead of picking directly from an intermediate bin, pick directly to a shipping carton. When these steps are eliminated, the process becomes faster and more streamlined. This helps increase customer relations and bottom lines improve.
11. Introduce Dynamic Slotting
Slotting based on demand is effective to increase warehouse operation efficiencies. By placing picks-by-products in one or more “look ahead” schedules, this enables operations to be optimized for costs and effectiveness.
12. Utilize Cross Docking
Cross-docking is when products are loaded from one transportation container to another and completely bypasses the warehousing and storage processes. This eliminates the middleman and helps reload items quickly. Mostly used with LTL shipments, this is very effective for larger distribution centers.
13. Implement Warehouse Safety Protocols
Make warehouse safety a top priority. Companies that fail to promote safety is usually due to insufficient time, inadequate resources, or opportunities to cut costs. However, in the long run, a safe warehouse delivers more cost savings. Workplace disruptions and issues can be quickly resolved, as well as the overall life of warehouse infrastructure are much more extended.
14. Make Use of Vertical Space
It is important to take advantage of every available space in a warehouse – this includes floor to ceiling, not just wall to wall. Pallet racking is an easy-to-use storage solution and is also the most common way of storing pallet loads. This is used in a majority of warehouses, manufacturing facilities, commercial warehouse operations and even retail stores.
15. Importance of Communicating Effectively
Clearly communicating with the workers allows organizational goals and processes to be met. This key practice is extremely effective to operations, especially when it is common for managers that fail to create an environment with open and clear communication. Employee productivity also increases as a direct result of effective communication.
These 15 best practices when utilized together will effectively improve warehouse operations. Every business has its own needs and requirements, but by being attentive to improving operations will provide them with a competitive advantage.
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