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Warehouse Operations Best 5 Practices – 5 Tips To Help Improve Warehouse Management And Operations
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Warehouse managers know all too well that the task of managing operations for a warehouse facility is far from straightforward. Warehouse operations managers are tasked with ensuring the efficient flow of products in and out of the facility, optimizing the building’s layout, making sure orders are fulfilled and products are in stock, but not overstocked. Add ensuring profitability and minimizing overhead and labor costs to the mix, and warehouse operators have their work cut out for them.
With so many factors to balance, considerations to weigh in every decision, and pressure from stakeholders on all sides to be more productive, minimize expenses, and maintain a smooth supply chain flow, it’s no surprise that there are many articles and resources outlining best practices for warehouse operations.
To make analyzing the vast array of information on warehouse operations best practices, we’ve put together a relatively concise list of best practices from a variety of sources. Here are some 5 best practices for warehouse operations to provide a useful resource for warehouse managers aiming to be top performers in their field and produce the best results possible for their companies. While categorized by topic, please note that the following best practices are not otherwise rated or ranked in any particular order of importance.
1. Use automatic data collection.
“People writing numbers on pads of paper or keying strings of numbers into a keyboard is a bad sign” McKnight says.
The benefits of automatic data collection—via bar code and radio frequency identification—are well-established, including increased productivity and accuracy and lower labor costs. But plenty of companies still haven’t implemented automatic data collection.
“Some organizations with 30,000 or 40,000 item numbers and multiple facilities are still convinced they’re better off without technology” – Denny McKnight, partner, Tompkins Associates Inc., a supply chain integration firm headquartered in Raleigh, N.C.
2. Don’t rely on manual data entry processes.
Use mobile computers with bar code scanners or RFID readers at the receiving dock to immediately identify products on arrival. This helps get product off the dock quickly and eliminates nearly all the errors associated with manual receiving: including identification, counting, and data entry errors. With scanning and RFID technology, you’ll avoid the mistakes that wreak havoc with inventory accuracy and eat up time and resources to fix. And that means your warehouse staff can focus on processing customer orders more quickly.” – Top 10 Losing Warehouse Strategies and How to Avoid Them, Motorola Solutions
3. Implement lean warehouse operations practices.
“Designing and implementing Lean warehouse operations can have a great impact on the total supply chain output. By approaching the waste focus areas mentioned above with Lean solutions, some of the opportunities that come up to reduce lead times in warehousing include:
Reduction in material handling time in order picking, put away, palletizing and shipping.
Reliability of information to coordinate the rest of the supply chain.
Reduction in truck and containers loading and unloading times.
Reduction in time spent checking and looking for inventory.
Increased flexibility to adapt to changing market conditions and customer specifications.” – Lean Warehouse Operations, Four Principles
4. Only trained operators should use equipment such as forklifts, cranes, and hoists.
“Forklifts and hand trucks aren’t the only warehouse equipment that can prove hazardous. Contact with moving conveyor parts can cause serious injuries. That’s why it’s so important to keep their guards in place. Cranes, hoists, and derricks can be operated only by trained operators who know enough to keep from swinging a load over people or to remove their hands or feet from controls while a load is suspended. In addition, anyone who works in the vicinity must pay attention to crane movements; if you work or stand under a crane, you’re looking for trouble. You may spot hazards in the way this equipment is loaded, too. Heavy or unbalanced loads could fall over and cause serious injuries—even fatal ones.” – Warehouse Safety, BLR.com
5. Establish stable warehouse operations within the warehouse first, then work to improve pre-planning efforts.
“The first place to start the MRO improvement process is in the warehouse itself. Once stable warehouse operations have been established, maintenance and operations can work to improve their pre-planning efforts. At first glance, this appears to be a daunting task. Trying to organize, store, identify and properly manage thousands of disparate inventory items, with different and seemingly unpredictable demand patterns, creates an environment in which it is difficult to succeed. Creating an implementation strategy that is simple, straight forward and thorough, is critical to a successful MRO Warehouse Operation.” – Creating the “Perfect Warehouse,” MRO Connection
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