Ideas to improve warehouse efficiency

6 ideas to improve warehouse efficiency

Lauren Koppelman Last Updated: January 7th, 2020

The efficiency of your warehouse is an integral part of your business. When operations run smoothly, customers get their orders on time, your staff stays safe and costs are kept to a minimum. On the other hand, if your warehouse is inefficient, you can quickly lose money, orders won’t be delivered on time and you’re more likely to experience issues like stockouts.

To avoid these problems, optimize your warehouse for efficiency. Here are 6 ideas you can implement to start seeing improvements in the overall efficiency of your warehouse:

  1. Identify the right frontline manager
  2. Make use of technology
  3. Optimize your space
  4. Organize each workstation
  5. Have a storage strategy
  6. Always be willing to continuously tweak methods

Operating an efficient warehouse requires a lot of moving parts. Overlooking even a minor detail can have a ripple effect on the overall flow of your warehouse. Let’s take a look at each of these steps and what you need to do to start seeing immediate improvement.

1. Identify the right frontline manager

A good frontline manager needs to be motivated and support their warehouse associates with tools, processes and feedback to encourage productivity. A well-run warehousing operation requires inventory management, picking, tracking of shipments, etc. All these components require you to have a capable frontline manager. Your frontline manager should also be good at identifying key areas of improvement and understand that the safety of workers comes before everything else.

Good leadership is important for every workspace. The most effective warehouse managers are highly organized and calm under pressure. They’re always seeking ways to improve working conditions, improve communication and streamline warehouse processes.

2. Make use of technology to support warehouse efficiency

Ideas to improve warehouse efficiency: Make use of technology

We’re well into the digital age, and there’s no denying the impact that technology has had in our lifetime. Incorporating technology, such as software systems and automation solutions can help to improve accuracy and productivity. For example, collaborative robots leverage AI and machine learning to optimize pick routes in real-time, reducing travel through the warehouse by associates, which not only enables associates to get more done in less time but also reduces physical fatigue.

Another example of technology that can help to improve efficiency is a cloud-based Electronic Point of Sale (EPOS) system. EPOS software can help you keep track of shipments, deliveries, workflow and everything else in between. You’ll be able to keep an eye on your inventory and monitor when orders need to be done. Thanks to cloud-based software, information is updated and accessible across your network so that all employees and stakeholders can have access to the information they need to inform decision-making.

3. Optimize your space for better warehouse efficiency

If you’re experiencing space limitations, it’s easy to assume that expanding the warehouse is the best solution. But, before you start putting more costs to the warehouse, are you sure that you’re optimizing all your available space?

One of the easiest ways to do this is to look into higher storage units. Optimizing vertical space is often overlooked but with the right plan, can have great returns. Pallet racking can help you achieve this.

While you’re optimizing your space, it’s also important to ensure that you keep congestion to a minimum. This applies to both inside and outside the warehouse. For instance, having a parking lot located too close to your entrance and exit points can cause congestion when suppliers deliver or when goods need to be moved out. Have a look at the overall layout of your space, both inside and out, to ensure that there’s a logical flow of movement.

4. Organize each workstation

Organized workstations help your staff perform their tasks without having restrictions from clutter around them. What’s the best method to achieve this? The 5S method is a great option.

The 5S method includes five steps: sort, set in order, shine, standardize and sustain. This method is a lean strategy that aims to reduce or eliminate workstation clutter to improve organization, safety and workflow.

Depending on what’s achievable, you may also want to look into mobile workstations and mobile power carts. These allow your staff to go closer to the point of activity with their stations and reduce unnecessary foot traffic.

5. Have a storage strategy to improve warehouse efficiency

Ideas to improve warehouse efficiency: Have a storage strategy

Are there certain goods that get shipped more than others? Having these goods near your exits or aisles will help to ensure that they are easily accessed when needed. Strategically storing goods can also reduce foot traffic.

When you develop your storage strategy, keep in mind that forklifts should easily be able to make their way into and out of your warehouse. You can achieve this by creating separate pedestrian walkways, which can improve both the safety in your warehouse and overall warehouse efficiency.

6. Always be willing to continuously tweak methods

The biggest challenge when it comes to warehouse efficiency is that what works this year may not necessarily work next year. There may also be new technological improvements that you can take advantage of in the coming months and years. To improve your productivity and efficiency, you must continuously evaluate and look at ways to improve your operations.

For instance, you may consider implementing mobile workstations only to discover that they’re not ideal for your warehouse’s needs. You’ll then need to go back and consider other options. With a flexible mindset, you can easily adapt to changing market dynamics and shift gears when things don’t go according to plan.

The efficiency of your warehouse directly affects the efficiency of the overall supply chain and your company’s bottom line. To learn more about how collaborative robots can help to improve warehouse efficiency, visit this post for key takeaways from our webinar, ‘Optimize Fulfillment with Collaborative Robotic Picking.’