Is your warehouse running smoothly? Managing a warehouse can be like conducting a symphony orchestra. These five tips will help get you up to speed.
Managing a warehouse well is about receiving, organizing and shipping products as efficiently as possible. People, processes, systems and floor plans must be seamlessly coordinated and integrated to maximize the use of space and save time. There are a lot of moving parts in any warehouse, but here are five tips for effectively managing a warehouse:
1. Organize Your Space Based on Your Evolving Needs
In other words, think like a store manager who wants to give incoming customers easy access to the most popular products. In the case of a warehouse, make it easy for pickers to gain access to the products that move the most within your warehouse, while also making the space flexible enough to adapt to product changes. Pay attention to how much time it takes for your workers to assemble and move orders to shipping, and then do everything you can to make it easier for them.
“Is your number one product the easiest to get to? If your pickers are regularly traveling the length of the warehouse to get to your biggest sellers, you’re wasting time compared to keeping everything nearby,” says Matt Grierson, managing director of storage solution provider Dexion, in an article from The Guardian.
You should also consider safety when organizing your space. Pay attention to the paths that workers take to move products and if they encounter other workers or equipment along the way. Be sure to set up products in a way that not only gives workers easy access, but also offers them ample space to move orders and equipment without running into each other.
2. Inspect Products at Receiving and at Shipping
You don’t want to put broken products on your warehouse shelves since it will often lead to angry customers and wasted efforts. To ensure that quality is prioritized, have your receiving team inspect all incoming items for quality. On the shipping side, make sure that your shipping team inspects the accuracy of all shipped orders. It’s better to spend more time fixing problems in-house rather than dealing with upset customers down the road.
3. Train Your Workers Well
Safety training should take priority, since the loss of any member of your warehouse team can impact the quality of your operations. Be especially careful about training forklift operators, as forklift accidents can result in serious, long-term injuries.
It’s also important to train all your workers in all your functions, just in case you need to reallocate people to fill gaps caused by absenteeism or vacations. Your pickers should be able to work well in receiving, for instance, and vice versa. The better your people understand all aspects of your warehouse operations, the more valuable they are to you and the more flexible you can be in allocating available resources.
4. Install Good Lighting, Especially in High-Traffic Areas
This promotes efficient operations and helps ensure quality in all aspects of running the warehouse. It also promotes safety. If you’re not sure about how well your key areas are lighted, conduct an inspection and make changes accordingly, or hire an auditor to do this for you.
5. Ensure Your Tech Infrastructure Supports All You Do
Warehouse management software should track every product in the warehouse — where it is, when it gets moved and when it ships out. Bar codes are perhaps the most common way of tracking products, with workers having hand-held devices to scan those bar codes whenever a product gets moved. Your technology should be the most essential driver of efficiency in the entire warehouse, giving you a real-time assessment of your operations. Of course, be sure to train your workers well so they understand exactly how to use your system.
Managing a warehouse can be a bit like conducting a symphony orchestra. All the players need to coordinate and do their parts well in order to produce beautiful, efficient music. Follow the five tips above to help get your people, processes and systems playing in perfect harmony. By creating the ideal environment and flow in your warehouse, you’ll be able to help your employees be more effective and deliver your customer’s products effiently.