Fighting Warehouse Inefficiency in 2019

The new year always provides a good opportunity to take stock of what’s been working for you and what hasn’t been, and that’s just as true in the warehouse as it is in your personal life.

Specifically, many warehouses these days face a lot of operational inefficiency. No matter how often you review your processes or how much work you do to streamline operations, there’s always something else causing overhead and leading to issues down the road.

With the start of the new year, this could be the perfect time to review some potential areas of inefficiency in your warehouse and help get things working more smoothly before business starts to pick back up through the year. Here’s a few areas of inefficiency that need review in many warehouses:

Increased Order Errors

Mistakes are bound to happen in any warehouse, but if the mistakes are constant (or big in monetary value) then it may be a sign of a greater problem with your processes. Take some time to talk to your staff and see where they encounter the biggest problems with packing orders to help identify the culprit. Are certain items too hard to find, or located somewhere out of reach on your pallet racks? Is your order tracking system frequently reporting the wrong quantity of items to send? While it might take a little detective work, making sure you understand where your order errors are coming from will go a long way towards helping your orders show up correctly and on time. Your staff will get things done more easily and your customers will be happy to go back.

Incorrect Staffing Levels

Even after your temporary hires have either been added permanently or moved on to new opportunities after the holidays, the idea of keeping all shifts (and individual areas) properly staffed is crucial to helping everything work as smoothly as possible. A quick way to understand where your staffing levels should be is to review sales figures and shipment-related KPIs (like items picked per hour). If sales figures tend to go up during certain times of day and you don’t have enough workers on those shifts to keep up, you should consider moving workers to those shifts. Conversely, if one shift seems overcrowded, it may lead to difficulties moving around and locating items as needed, and those workers could be better served on a different shift.

Difficulty Locating Items

As the number of products that warehouses are expected to carry increases, an age-old struggle rears its ugly head: where the heck is all this stuff supposed to go? One of the single biggest contributing factors to inefficiency in locating items and processing orders is not having a logical place to keep everything. No matter how much warehouse racking you have, you need to sort everything in a manner that makes sense to your staff—keep popular items in an easy-to-get-to area, store heavy goods as safely as possible, and if something isn’t selling as fast as you’d like, it might be time to get it moved out of the way so it doesn’t interfere with items with better sell-through rates.

Bad Workflows

Finally, even if your items are exactly where they should be and labelled correctly, the very act of everyone getting to them can be a challenge in and of itself. Material handling can easily fall out of sequence with the workflow if there’s a lot of redundancies in the process, and if something gets held up somewhere it can create a domino effect where suddenly nobody knows where they are or what they’re doing. Review your current processes and workflows to minimize the number of ‘touches’ an item needs on its way from the racks to the shipping area, and make sure everyone has something to do even in the event of a logjam.

With these tips in mind, your warehouse could find itself working smoother than ever before in 2019. You’ll wonder why you didn’t try it sooner.