Of all the areas your business needs to operate smoothly, the warehouse is probably the space which can most quickly fall into disarray. Cutting corners or not maintaining high standards often has a knock-on effect which can drastically reduce the efficiency of your entire business operation. On the other hand, a well-run, well-planned and well-maintained warehouse can become your company’s biggest asset, allowing all other departments to boost their effectiveness, and ultimately making your business more profitable – and a more pleasant place to work, too! Here we explore a few simple tips to whip your warehouse into shape – and keep it that way.
Invest in the right pallet system and storage solutions
Just as it’s hard to keep your clothes organized (and find what you’re looking for) if you’ve only got a tiny amount of closet space, insufficient or ineffective storage in the warehouse makes everything else harder. Stock inevitably ends up crammed in where it doesn’t belong, making all your other processes less efficient. Update your pallet racking system, invest in better shelving solutions and clear labeling, and you’ve got a great foundation for a well-run warehouse.
Keep it clean
It goes without saying that a regular cleaning and tidying schedule leads to a better working environment, yet this is an area which it’s easy to become undisciplined in, especially during very busy periods. Set and rigorously stick to a cleaning roster, ideally incentivizing your employees to do a good job. You could allow any staff pitching in with the clean during the week to go home an hour earlier on Friday, for example.
The right tools for the job
Whether it’s a cloud-based inventory tracking system, a barcoding system, or the physical equipment such as ladders and forklifts you have in place, having the appropriate tools makes your warehouse safer and more efficient. Identify equipment or software which is causing bottlenecks and delays, and act to remedy the situation. You may find investing in additional equipment – such as forklifts for sale in your area – could drastically speed up your processes if you don’t have staff waiting on one vehicle to become available.
Get feedback from warehouse staff
Those on the ground will always have the best grasp of where issues lie, so make sure you get their input on where improvements can be made. While you might be able to pinpoint areas where there appear to be bottlenecks, feedback from warehouse staff is crucial in uncovering what the underlying causes and possible solutions are.
Customize for your unique situation
While there are some standard rules and guidelines which are suggested for all industries, only you truly understand the requirements for your company. It is often suggested, for example, that like items be stored together for easy retrieval – and this is a good rule of thumb for most warehouses. However, if your company frequently ships a set of unrelated items that come as a ‘package deal’, it makes sense to break this rule.
Implement cycle stock takes and inventory counts
Most companies follow the model of one large biannual or yearly stock take – and this may well be sufficient for smaller companies or when you only keep a relatively small number of items in stock at any given time. If you find that inventory or stock take keeps getting delayed because you never manage to find a quiet period in which to schedule it, breaking it up into smaller components which can be tackled on a more regular basis may be more efficient.
Reorganize the entire space for better flow
As new items get added into inventory and your offerings expand, space is often assigned haphazardly without much attention being given to creating an efficient workflow. Set aside time to get to grips with where employees are going out of their way to retrieve items, where work is being duplicated, where errors are occurring frequently, or where stock that is seldom used is getting in the way of faster moving items. It might seem like a hassle to shuffle and reorganize everything, but taking the time to get it right will more than pay off in the long run.
Make sure to provide regular training and refreshers
Aside from ensuring the safety of your staff, regular training – especially if you are implementing any new technologies such as cloud software or a new barcoding system – gives them the confidence to use the tools available to them to maximum benefit. Ensure a culture where questions and comments are encouraged, so no-one ever feels too nervous to ask what they fear may be a silly question.
Cross-training of employees is also an excellent investment, so you can ensure minimum disruption should any one member of staff be unable to attend work.