Warehouse Management Tips: Best Practice for Efficient Operations
As your operations expand, it’s only natural for your warehouse to become less efficient as you have to shift more and more stock. However, if your warehouse isn’t laid out and managed as efficiently as possible, you’ll lose money every day. Every minute wasted on inefficiencies has an impact on your bottom line.
As a warehouse manager, it’s your job to make sure your warehouse or factory is running as smoothly as possible at all times. To help you achieve this, we’ve put together this guide to warehouse management best practice. Read on to discover:
- Warehouse layout best practice
- Warehouse management tips
Warehouse layout best practice
The foundation of an efficient warehouse is its floorplan. Get this right and the rest will follow; get it wrong and even your best efforts won’t be able to make up for your inefficiencies.
In a perfect world, you’ll be able to design your floorplan from scratch. However, your warehouse will usually grow alongside your operations, meaning inefficiencies develop along the way. Taking the time to re-arrange your warehouse is therefore one of the most important things you can do when it comes to improving your on-site productivity.
If your space is laid out logically, your staff will be able to perform their jobs as efficiently as possible, meaning more tasks can be completed each day. And, by making better use of your existing space, you’ll be able to work from your existing premises for as long as possible, saving you the cost and hassle of relocating.
When you’re designing your warehouse, follow these rules to ensure it's laid out as efficiently as possible:
Make your most popular items the easiest to get to
Make sure the items you need to access most often are the easiest to get to. If this changes seasonally or when you have sales, rearrange the space to account for this.
Adopt a lean mentality
It costs money to store inventory, which only clutters up your space. The most efficient warehouse managers subscribe to a lean mentality and keep the minimum amount of stock on-site at all times. This helps them keep their premises tidy and uncluttered with a minimum of effort, making it easier for their team to work as efficiently as possible. It also means they can work from smaller premises, saving them a substantial amount of money over the years.
Adopting a lean mentality can lead to much more efficient operations, but it requires a lot of forward planning. You'll need to keep a close track of your stock at all times and make sure you've always got more stock on the way before you run out completely. It's also important to pre-empt consumer behaviour and move with the seasons so you always have in-demand items in stock.
Keeping the perfect amount of stock on-site at all times is a balancing act. But if you get it right, lean operations can lead to extremely efficient work processes and big profit margins, as you'll end up with minimal waste at the end of each season.
Make sure your receiving area is big enough
A lot of warehouse managers dedicate as little space as possible to their receiving area in an effort to use up every available inch of storage space. However, this often leaves them with inadequate room to take in new stock.
While it might seem counterintuitive, dedicating plenty of space to the goods-in section of your warehouse will ensure your team has enough space to unload deliveries in as little time as possible. This will help improve your overall efficiency, making it well worth sacrificing that extra storage space.
Shorten your aisles
By breaking up long aisles with perpendicular cross aisles, you can make your warehouse a lot easier to navigate. While you’ll have to sacrifice some storage space, this will allow your team to get where they need to be as fast as possible.
Divide your warehouse into designated areas
Every function of your warehouse — goods-in, goods-out, packing, and returns — should have its own designated area. This will help ensure maximum efficiency by reducing the risk of mix-ups.
The clearer the segmentation, the better — fencing and partitioning will help you here. Each area should also be clearly labelled with signs that can be read from afar as well as close-up. A colour-coding system can be really helpful here, as this will help your staff easily identify where they need to be.
Let there be light
If your warehouse isn’t well-lit, it will take your staff longer to find what they’re looking for and make it more likely they’ll pick up the wrong item. It will also create a tripping hazard, and could even reduce employee morale.
Making sure every area of your site is well-lit will do wonders for your productivity, so make sure your aisles and workspaces have adequate lighting.
Add a mezzanine floor
You can double, triple and even quadruple your storage space by adding mezzanine floors to your warehouse. If you’ve already maximised your existing storage space at ground level, this is a great way of expanding your operations without having to go through the inconvenience and expense of relocating
If you do choose to install another floor in your warehouse, make sure to take advantage of our mezzanine floor goods lifts, which can quickly and safely lift up to 1,000kg of goods between up to four levels.
Warehouse management tips
Efficiency starts with your warehouse layout. However, once you’ve handled that, there’s plenty more you can do to ensure your operations are running as smoothly as possible. Here’s the steps you should take if you want to achieve complete on-site efficiency.
Start at the beginning
Everything starts in receiving. Every item that enters your warehouse should be inspected and set aside if it’s not fit for use. If you notice a shortage in receiving, it should be noted and reconciled immediately to avoid headaches down the line.
Your receiving area should also be completely cleared after each delivery to ensure every item is in the right place for when it's next needed.
Every area of your warehouse should be immediately identifiable, and every item should be clearly labelled. This will help your team work efficiently and make it as easy as possible to maintain tidy premises.
A place for everything and everything in its place
Your team should know exactly where to find every bit of equipment they need to complete their tasks. As such, every item should have a place and it should be returned there each time it's used so it’s ready and waiting to go next time it’s needed.
Only handle each item once
Every item should be handled as few times as possible. If possible, it should be brought into your warehouse, stored, and not touched until it’s dispatched.
This system will rely on each item being clearly labelled and stored in the most logical place as soon as it enters your warehouse. This requires a lot of forward planning and careful tracking, but it will significantly speed up your processes by eliminating unnecessary work.
Schedule time at the end of each day for tidying
Each day, your team should come in to a perfectly tidy warehouse and be able to get straight into work. Of course, despite your staff’s best efforts to tidy as they go, clutter is naturally going to build up over the day. If you’re serious about maintaining a tidy and efficient warehouse, it’s therefore important to give your team scheduled time to tidy up their workstations at the end of each day.
Ultimately, making tidying their workspace an integral part of your employees' day is the only way to guarantee it's going to get done. While it might seem counterintuitive, making the last ten minutes of the working day scheduled tidying time will therefore increase your team’s output in the long run.
Invest in the right tech and equipment
In the digital age, there’s plenty of technology that can help you run your warehouse as efficiently as possible. For example, a warehouse management system (WMS) automatically tracks your entire operation, from inventory levels to stock locations. This can significantly improve the efficiency of any warehouse, but the larger your operation, the more time a WMS will shave off.
While digital advances can help you manage your warehouse more efficiently, innovations in lifting equipment can also help your staff complete their tasks much faster — not to mention more safely. For example, our vehicle-mounted cranes and hydraulic loading platforms can help your staff load and unload items from delivery vehicles as quickly as possible without putting their health and safety at risk. Our loading bay lifts, which are available in capacities from 500kg to 1,500kg, can also help significantly speed up deliveries into loading bays and docks.
This lifting equipment will not only help your staff perform their jobs more efficiently, but also reduce the amount of sick days your staff take due to on-site injuries.
Train your staff
Even the best laid plan is going to quickly come undone if your staff haven’t received the training they need to implement it. Every member of your team should be briefed on your systems and taught how to use the equipment they need to fulfil their role. Your processes should also all be recorded in a document your team has easy access to at all times.
When your processes change, every member of staff should be informed and retrained if necessary. This will ensure your warehouse always runs effectively, and you should make it a priority if you want to keep profits as high as possible.
Keep refining your approach
If you want your warehouse to run as efficiently as possible, it’s important not to rest on your laurels. As your needs change, your existing systems aren’t going to serve you as effectively as they have in the past.
At the end of every week, evaluate your warehouse and ask yourself these questions: should different products take up the priority positions? Could new technology help improve your processes? Are there any areas where you could be more productive?
Periodically re-evaluate your systems and, whenever you can see an opportunity to make a process more efficient, work as quickly as possible to implement a change.
So, there you have it: warehouse management best practice. Follow this guidance and your premises will be laid out as effectively as possible and you’ll have all the tools you need to keep improving your processes as your business’s needs change.