Warehouses often try to improve their organizational effectiveness in order to increase employee productivity and customer satisfaction. Here are seven ways to improve people, processes and warehouse systems.
Analyze Picking Methods
Warehouse operations and products often evolve, but picking habits and methodology remain the same. Warehouse managers should evaluate single, batch and multiple order picking methodology to ensure that both single and zone picking techniques is used. When in doubt, ask for assistance from an outside consultant to explore how new picking methods may optimize efficiency and productivity.
SKU demand cyclically changes with the seasons, so re-organize the warehouse to accommodate these temporary business models. This will ensure that the most popular SKUs are in the correct storage location, which will reduce wasted travel time and consolidate processes. Many warehouse management systems (WMS) come with dynamic scenario planning and slotting module functions. Every year, review the current set up to plan for future market and customer changes.
Create Internal Warehouses
Warehouses will improve efficiency by grouping together the products that are in highest demand. Most experts estimate that approximately 20 percent of all products fulfill 80 percent of orders. Grouping products together and creating a miniature warehouse will reduce travel time and increase organizational clarity. These special zones must be designed to safely and smoothly accommodate high-volume foot traffic and equipment activity.
Everyone knows that warehouse management systems are an essential logistical management tool. These programs offer unique functions, such as order sequencing by designated pick paths. Warehouses will save time and reduce problems when they sequence orders, batch together single lines, standardize same-zone orders and streamline difficult item picking. Software programs will provide projected workflows and identify opportunities to optimize sequence performance.
Select Standard Shipping Packages
Every warehouse should ideally only use two or three shipping cartons with a few custom sizes available if needed. In this way, warehouse pickers will assemble orders faster and learn how to better package batch orders. Freight expenses will be optimized and reduced. Warehouse managers should work with pickers to establish standard pick-path methodologies.
Warehouse automation is always an excellent idea because pickers typically spend approximately half of their time walking and moving products around. Automated solutions, such as conveyor belts, will reduce travel time and picking efficiency. They also drastically minimize musculoskeletal strains because conveyor belts are ergonomically friendly.
Utilize Available Technology
There are many industry standard technology options available for warehouses to increase efficiency. This includes bar codes, RFID tags, voice-activated solutions and label technologies. These are all proven ways to provide flexible levels of increased picking accuracy, productivity and efficiency. However, in order to technological solutions to drive results, warehouse managers must appropriately store products and equipment. Continual employee training is also essential to obtain the best results from technology.
As final suggestions, create wheelhouse zones within picking areas to improve speed and implement incentive programs for pickers. However, these programs must ensure that productivity measurements are fairly and accurately reported.