Efficiency is such a core component of any successful warehouse operation that it should be at the top of your list of priorities if you manage a warehouse in the digital age. Unfortunately, plenty of other things also need your attention as a warehouse manager, and it can be hard to find the time to sit down and figure out where to start when it comes to improving warehouse efficiency.
To help you save time and focus on the areas that matter most in your warehouse operation, we’ve put together this guide to help you improve warehouse efficiency in the digital age. Check out the following eight tips to start improving productivity and efficiency and regain your sanity:
1. Optimize Your Layout
The layout of your warehouse plays a huge part in your operational efficiency. A warehouse layout that is not conducive to productivity isn’t going to be efficient, and even though these inefficiencies may be small, they all add up over time.
In fact, you may be surprised to find out just how much time ends up being wasted over the course of a shift due to things like inefficient use of vertical space and long distances between pallet rack space and your final inspection station. Take some time to reevaluate your warehouse operations and look for ways to optimize your layout. You will likely find that you can reclaim productivity in doing so and gain efficiency in the process.
2. Reevaluate Your Customer Service
You may not think that your customer service operations have much to do with warehouse efficiency, but consider this: If you repeatedly have customers calling in about problems with their orders, this leads to reorders and recalls on the warehouse floor.
Over time, this causes backups and bottlenecks and also requires customer service agents to take time away from handling customer-facing operations to communicate concerns with management and floor staff. When you provide top-notch customer service through ongoing training and the establishment of company-wide standards, you’re less likely to run into inefficiencies that lead to backups.
3. Use a Warehouse Management System
Management systems are integral in the modern warehouse, especially in the age of immediacy to which customers have become accustomed. Inventory management systems that allow you to view inventory in real-time and logistics management systems that track shipments are just two examples of warehouse management system (WMS) solutions that can keep your operation productive and efficient. A WMS can be customized to meet the needs of your specific operation, and with the right WMS in place, your warehouse can regain productivity and reduce waste.
4. Talk to Your Employees
Even though you’re an expert in your field, you can’t be everywhere at once. With all that you’ve got going on during the day handling your management duties, you must rely on your employees to fill you in on problems they encounter. If you don’t take the time to meet and talk with your floor workers, logistics specialists and customer service agents regularly, you may not know about problems that are leading to efficiency and productivity problems.
If you don’t have a schedule for face-to-face time with each of your workers, now is a good time to set one up. Meeting with your employees not only gives you the chance to learn about what’s really going on in your day-to-day operations, but it also signals that you care about the experiences of your workers and may lead to increased productivity as a result.
5. Look for Ways to Reuse or Recycle
You may already have a program in place to reuse or recycle materials, but when was the last time to looked over your guidelines? Many warehouse managers have recycling programs in place that have been in use for years, but as technology has changed, the guidelines have remained the same. You may be interested to know that warehouse efficiency can be improved dramatically by taking a look at or establishing guidelines to reuse, repurpose and recycle used materials.
When you recycle materials, you reduce warehouse waste, and you can increase efficiency and productivity because there’s less processing involved in getting new materials delivered, dealing with delivery and packaging, taking care of sorting and storage and all of the other things that come along with materials handling. By reusing and recycling materials, you can put efficient processes in place to get used materials back into your manufacturing line faster.
6. Look Over Freight Claims
Freight claims, or claims from customers on damaged or lost shipments, can hurt your operational efficiency in the long term. When you receive a freight claim, this usually means you need to take the time to re-process the order. A freight claim takes away time from other tasks, potentially takes up more warehouse space you hadn’t planned for and leads to lower customer confidence if it happens too often.
To reduce freight claims, take a moment to look over claims made in the last year. You can also work with your logistics partners to determine if a problem exists in communication or order hand-off. When you get a handle on why freight claims happen in the first place, you stand a better chance of reducing them, allowing you to streamline operations while improving efficiency.
7. Automate Where Possible
Automation systems and technologies play a big role in warehouse efficiency, and thankfully, many automation solutions available to warehouse managers these days can be easily implemented. Warehouse automation systems can not only save time and increase efficiency, but they can also lead to improved accuracy and faster order picking.
When you automate processes in areas like inventory management, you can find orders more quickly and get them packed for shipping. Automation can also be used to pull orders and transport them to the right areas of your warehouse. Another benefit is that today’s warehouse automation systems can usually scale with growth, allowing warehouses of all different sizes to take advantage of these technologies.
8. Engage Employees in the Process
Lastly, keep in mind that warehouse operations are only as good as the employees who staff them. Employees who aren’t engaged and motivated will likely not perform at their best. If you haven’t already done so, look for ways to motivate employees through recognition and rewards. Happy employees tend to be productive employees, and productive employees lead to improved warehouse efficiency.
Improving Efficiency is a Process
No matter how you choose to implement policies and procedures to boost efficiency, remember that it's a process. There's no one single thing that you can do to instantly improve warehouse efficiency, but by reviewing processes, implementing changes and refining your strategy over time, your operation will become more lean and productive.
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Pallet Market Inc. is the trusted partner for pallet suppliers in California and logistics managers who want to improve warehouse efficiency. We provide fast broken pallet pickup, drop trailer services, onsite pallet repairs and more. To get started on improving your warehouse operational efficiency, contact Pallet Market Inc. today!