As new technology makes warehousing more seamless, traditional warehouse problems and solutions persist for many companies that have yet to adopt a digital infrastructure. Often, the solution to warehousing issues is a combination of hiring experienced people and embracing new technology. Here are six major problems many warehouses still face and how they can be resolved.
1. More Accurate Inventory Counts
One of the most common warehouse problems and solutions of all time has involved inventory count accuracy and software that reduces human errors. With good tracking software, a manual counting system is better than the humans who use it, which opens the door to accurate counts. Keeping accurate records of stock levels is essential to company success. Thorough training helps employees understand their job roles better, putting a priority on accuracy.
The reason accuracy is such a significant issue is that inaccurate inventory counts can lead to costly errors. The combination of inaccurate costs and inventory information can lead to financial losses that severely cut the bottom line. The most efficient way to run inventory management nowadays is with barcode technology that integrates with an advanced warehouse management software platform. The best systems allow you to track data of any inventory product in real-time.
2. Automating Redundant Tasks
Redundant work can lead to worker burnout, reducing productivity and focus. Many redundant tasks eventually become automated when technology resolves the matter with minimal human assistance. The most advanced third-party logistics (3PL) firms use robotics to move physical items. It's essential if your business is part of a global supply chain to speed up processes and make proper adjustments for fluctuations in demand.
These challenges can be resolved with warehouse execution systems (WES), designed to reduce redundant tasks in warehouses with automation. Some systems include machine learning software that analyzes market patterns that a human might overlook.
3. Readjusting the Layout
Warehouses are only sometimes designed for efficiency, but it's possible to maximize warehouse space by rethinking the layout. You can optimize your layout by analyzing which items are picked, packed, and shipped the most, so you can store them in a location where they are easily accessed. The best way to readjust your layout is with the help of 3D modeling software.
The most efficient way to store almost any inventory in a warehouse layout is with wooden or plastic pallets. Products can be stacked in layers on pallets and easily moved with a forklift or other machinery. Think about resetting your layout so that inventory items are easily accessible, as products can be loaded or unloaded in a way that conserves both horizontal and vertical space.
One way to reduce traffic at your warehouse is to adopt a drop trailer logistics program, which involves leaving a container for flexible loading and unloading. You get to follow your timetable when you enter such a program with another vendor, so it reduces wait times.
4. Forecasting Consumer Demand
One of the biggest challenges for a warehouse operation is accurately forecasting consumer demand based on historical data and other factors. It's important to understand seasonal demands and be prepared for new trends. Ordering appropriate supplies to accommodate the demand is key to maintaining profitability. While surpluses take up precious space, shortages create lost revenue opportunities. The best way to improve forecasting accuracy is to use machine learning software that studies historical data and other factors and then provides demand forecast estimates.
A disorganized warehouse storing items in unexpected places can lead to miscounting inventory, which distorts sales. Making accurate demand forecasts begins with accurate inventory management as a foundation. Even with advanced software, a good warehouse manager must still know the company's ordering history and demand cycles.
5. Dealing with Labor Costs and Shortages
Two labor issues can be resolved at least partially with automation: costs and shortages. Automation is an excellent solution for redundant tasks that get boring for humans. Not all warehouse jobs can be replaced with automation, but specific tasks involving record-keeping and scheduling can be automated using the right warehouse management platform. Many warehouse managers shifted to automation following the "great resignation" period in which workers rethought their careers during the pandemic.
It's possible to save money with automation in the long term because it equates to doing more work with less people. But since a warehouse still needs to hire people for tasks such as loading and unloading, it's best to give employers a sense they are part of an important team. Ideally, you can convince each employee they are more valuable than a robot.
6. Optimizing the Picking Process
Many warehouse management problems occur at the picking level. The use of wireless communication systems is helping reduce the human errors involved with the picking process. Some common errors that can occur during the picking process involve picking the wrong number of items and the wrong products. The best way to optimize the picking process is to train employees thoroughly on where items are stored and use apps to locate specific items quickly.
The process you use for picking, packing, and shipping dramatically affects how well you can satisfy end customers. Companies that emphasize quality control at every stage of picking, packing, and shipping tend to get the best customer satisfaction scores. By tracking a product from the beginning to the end of the order fulfillment process, it's possible to pinpoint slowdowns and reduce delivery problems in the future.
Understanding current warehouse problems and solutions will help you make your facility more efficient. Ideally, your infrastructure is digital or becoming more digital, so it's easy to track any inventory item. Selecting a reliable warehouse management system is crucial to your team's productivity. Remember, another key to warehouse efficiency is how you arrange pallets in your facility.