How to improve your warehouse efficiency?

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Are your warehouse operations successful?

If yes, you are set to grow and there is no better time to review your warehouse organization strategies. If no, now is the time to introduce warehouse solutions that can boost efficiency and productivity. Here are a few warehouse storage ideas for improving operations:

  1. Introduce cycle counts

Cycle counting involves counting warehouse inventory at regular intervals throughout the year. It is an easier and more effective way of counting inventory than the often-used annual counting method. Popular cycle counting methods you can consider are: ABC method and Geographic method.

The ABC method categorizes stock into A level (high-volume items), B level (mid-volume items) and C level (low volume items) items. The counting of high-volume items is scheduled more frequently than the lower-level items. Once a counting schedule is established, stock is divided between the staff and daily/ weekly counting targets are set.

The second method (geographic method) involves starting from one end of the warehouse and counting to the other end. This method is especially suitable to companies that face misplaced or lost inventory issues. Even this method allows setting of daily/weekly counting goals.

Pick a suitable cycle counting method to get started. Once the process is perfected, you can even phase out the annual physical inventory count. 

2. Review warehouse racking layout

A yearly review of warehouse racking layout is necessary to ensure the stacking and movement methods are suited to the inventory you carry. When new lines are added to the inventory, they are typically placed wherever storage space is available.  Overtime, such unplanned additions lead to an increase in order picking times and less efficiency. Periodic review and reorganization of the warehouse racking layout can improve picking times by as much as 50%.

Most warehouses store higher volume items in easily accessible locations close to shipping areas for better productivity. You can make this simple strategy better by analyzing your order data to identify patterns that offer insights on stock placement. For example, data mining can identify products that are routinely ordered together. You can place all such products closer together to lower order picking times.

Another way to raise efficiency is grouping together the 20% SKUs that constitute 80% of your orders into a dedicated racking zone. The said area must be designed to support high-volume activity. This strategy is an absolute must for warehouses that ship several units of a limited set of products & product lines.

  1. Pick the right storage racks and equipment

Your warehouse storage needs will evolve with time. Which is why you must assess both current and future needs to arrive at the right storage racks and equipment mix for your warehouse operations.

Appropriate storage racks that enables safe storage, higher capacity and more picker productivity, should be selected.  Slow-moving, low-cube items are better stored in bin shelving, whereas fast-moving items are better off in pallet racking systems.

Warehouse storage systems like pallet racking increase storage density by maximizing the use of vertical space.  Transition to pallet racking systems requires investment and efforts initially but saves precious space and generates cost-savings in the medium to long run. For stock that is mix of palletized and non-palletized goods, the combination of pallet racking systems and heavy duty shelving is the best option.

Optimal cubic space utilization is must for warehousing operations success and selecting the right storage solution is key to it.

  1. Evaluate order picking methodology

Are you sure that your warehouse racking layout, storage system and equipment choices right?

There’s more you can do to increase efficiency. The right order picking method(s), can drive a further jump in productivity.

If you are not sure which of the following options will work better and need results immediately, engage a consultant or 3PL partner to help you.

Picking methods, you can consider are:

  • Single order
  • Multi-order
  • Batch picking
  • Zone picking

The right method reduces travel time, and increases order picking productivity and response times, hence, choose wisely.

  1. Use proper labelling

Proper labelling of inventory helps your staff store and retrieve items easily and quickly. All products being stocked should be labelled clearly with SKU (stock-keeping unit) number, name, product description and other relevant details.

Keeping the location of the label consistent on all storage boxes will help your order pickers locate order items quickly and is worth implementing.  Another great idea that can reduce the clutter and messiness of warehouse operations is the inclusion of a digital image of the box contents on the label. Half-open boxes strewn around the warehouse often can act as traffic barriers and slowdown warehouse operations.  An image on the outside will eliminate the need for your staff to look inside the box to confirm they have the correct item.

And a few other ideas that merit consideration are….

  • Creation of ‘Wheel house Zones’ to further optimize pickups

A Wheel house zone can lower travel time for order pickers and speedup order fulfillment. It involves the creation of a separate zone close to the shipping area where the fastest-moving SKUs are kept in waist-to-shoulder length racks. This increases visibility and removes the need for use of special equipment like stacker or forklift.

  • Designing ergonomic workstations and using ergonomic equipment to boost labor productivity.

Using ergonomic equipment designed for specific tasks can reduce injuries, lower exhaustion and stress, raise labor productivity and retention, and reduce healthcare and compensation costs.

  • Automated warehouse storage systems, for better picking accuracy.

Automated warehouse racking system can boost the efficiency, picking accuracy and safety while bring down labor costs. Any decision to introduce automated pallet racking systems must happen after consulting a warehouse solutions provider who can determine the cost-benefit and ROI for your case.

Think some of these ideas could help you?  Get in touch with us to assess which ones will maximize efficiency in your case. Once you identify the right solutions and steps, make them a part of your warehouse organization strategy, and watch your warehouse productivity grow!

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