When managing a warehouse, organization is key to success. Without the core concepts of proper storage, handling, or workflow, then productivity will suffer. It is the responsibility of management to be aware of any and all shortcomings with the standard operating procedures, whether it be a failure of equipment, regulations, or with workers.
These weaknesses need to be recorded and addressed in order to move forward, and finding new ways for warehouse organization to improve efficiency must be explored.
Audit Your Current Processes
An operational audit should be conducted to see how efficient your current procedures are. It will help in tracking down the weak links in your chain and see where you need to improve and where you are doing just fine.
Make Use of Data
Once you have the information from the audit, you need to put it to adequate use. Observe the findings and try to find the root problem of inefficiencies. In some instances, it may seem that the problem is employees and that they take too long to complete orders. But the problem may go deeper, as they might not have the right tools to make their job fast or more accurate.
Use Your Space Wisely
Look to the storage space that you currently have and ask yourself if it can be better optimized. If lack of space is a chronic problem in your operations, then expansion may not be the best solution; it may be a problem with your storage system and use of space.
See if the ceiling of your warehouse can handle taller racks; using vertical space should be considered before you decide to expand horizontal space. Unless you already have the necessary tools to access the upper levels of storage racks, then you may also need to purchase that equipment. After all is said and done, the expenses of taller racks and electric stackers will total less than extensive renovations.
Section Off What You Have
This may not necessarily aid in giving your warehouse more room, but it does benefit your work’s overall organization system. Installing pallet rack wire deck dividers can better divide your inventory and make it easier to find the materials you are looking for.
Incorporate Technology Into Management
Administrative technologies are now widely accessible and relatively inexpensive to purchase and install. They can greatly aid in the management of warehouse stocking, picking, shipments, deliveries, and even optimized routes of picking. Information can be readily pulled up if an item cannot be found through traditional means, and inventory can be accurately recorded.
Radio Frequency Identification
Utilizing handheld RFID guns can increase the accuracy of transactions, help identify difficult-to-find items, and reduce the chances of mis-picking items. RFID scanners are easy to operate and can facilitate the increased workflow of workers with minimal training.
Don’t Wait on Integration
At first, it may seem that installing new technology will not be cost-effective or that it will interfere with the short-term productivity of workers. And while it may be the case that integration may negatively affect efficiency at first, it will greatly improve upon the processes in the long term. The current incontinence of installation will be offset by future improvement.
Adequately Organize Workspaces
Ensure that workstations are fully equipped with everything a worker needs to complete their daily tasks. If they need specialized equipment that is impractical to keep in any single workstation, then have it in an easily accessible location that anyone can access.
Maintain Buildup of Clutter
There may be points when there is an accumulation of garbage throughout the day. Often, it is easier to keep the buildup of the mess at workstations for others to clean up later. Make disposal sites easy to find and simple to access, even if it is leaving a bag of garbage outside a compactor door.
Give employees a dedicated spot to put their trash, so the workstations are not overloaded with refuse. Excess clutter can cut into productivity and slow down the process of daily tasks.
Keep Up With Employee Training
Whether it is receiving shipments, picking orders, packing them for delivery, or shipping them out, every employee needs some amount of training to get their job done. Many times, a problem of productivity and workflow can be traced back to employees who have not been taught or are not practicing the correct work procedures.
In the case of the former and employees have not been taught the proper procedure, then that is a failing of the orientation and training process of your warehouse. They were not given the proper knowledge to do their job safely and efficiently.
In the case of the latter, if they simply are not following the proper procedure, then you need a system of discipline to correct unsafe behavior. Repeated infractions should not be tolerated and should result in suspensions or termination if the behavior does not stop.
Specialized Equipment and Vehicles
For specialized equipment, employees should go through thorough training before they are allowed to operate machinery. This can be electric pallet jacks, stackers, forklifts, or a self-propelled order picker. These can be dangerous tools that, if handled poorly, can result in damage to the product, severe injury, or even death in the worst-case scenarios.
Audit Your New Processes
Just like you must do before you make sweeping changes, run an operational audit once you have made the changes that you believe are necessary. It can reveal what has succeeded, what has not worked as intended, and what else you need to improve.
Don’t Be Afraid To Take a Step Back
If a change you have implemented has unforeseen consequences, whether it be decreased employee satisfaction or a reduction of productivity, then you may need to consider changing back to the old processes you had before. Course-correcting sometimes means going back to what you had before, and it is better to go back to what worked than to stay with something that is harming the company or workers.
Work Smarter, Not Harder
Many of the warehouse organization issues that hurt efficiency can be solved by a reallocation of supplies or redefining old systems. It is not enough to fire some workers if they are not doing a good job or to hire more employees to help the already adequate workforce. You may already have all the workers and tools you need to increase efficiency; you just may not be utilizing them in the most optimal way possible.