Managing a modern warehouse requires making regular changes to your facility and staying up to date with the latest industry trends. Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, supply chain bottlenecks have impacted nearly every warehouse and distribution center. When you combine these issues with the substantial increase in online sales and the requirement for fast delivery, warehouses are tasked with performing at peak efficiency 24/7.
If you currently manage or own a warehouse, there are many different techniques you can use to make sure your facility is meeting your goals. While there isn’t just one effective way to manage your warehouse, there are some common mistakes that you should avoid.
These mistakes can adversely impact any warehouse, which is why it’s highly recommended that you take steps to mitigate them. Doing so will help you obtain better performance and get ahead of the competition. The following provides an in-depth overview of the 10 warehouse mistakes that you would do well to avoid.
10. Lack of Inventory Accuracy
Likely the easiest mistake to make is not maintaining accurate records of your inventory. While this shouldn’t be a challenge if these records are digital, many warehouses have yet to adopt the latest technologies. If you want to keep customers satisfied and deliver orders on time, controlling inventory accuracy is essential.
You can reduce inventory problems by installing a warehouse management system (WMS) or warehouse execution system (WES). These technologies automatically integrate shipping, receiving, inventory management, reverse logistics, and order fulfillment into your warehouse with modern software. It’s also possible to pair WMS systems with wireless headsets, automated shelving, and mobile carts for a bigger technological focus in your facility.
Likely the most difficult aspect of maintaining inventory accuracy is dealing with selecting the same product from multiple locations. Warehouses can choose to store the same SKU in a split-case section of the facility, which allows individual items to be picked for online orders. You can also place the same SKU in a full-case area to accommodate larger orders. Another option is to ship entire pallets to retail stores or clients via bulk racking. If you use all three of these techniques in your warehouse, managing inventory accuracy between each of them is challenging if you don’t have the right tools at your disposal.
9. Failure to Optimize Picking Paths
Having an optimized warehouse layout allows your personnel to find the items they need when picking an order. If you don’t properly optimize picking paths, your labor costs will rise by a considerable amount. If your team is unable to pick items and properly fulfill orders because of poorly laid-out picking paths, your picking costs will invariably increase, which means that you may need to charge more for your items to cover these extra expenses.
When optimizing your picking paths, make sure that you group commonly ordered items together and keep the dispatch area near the storage area. While you take steps to improve order picking paths, spend some time analyzing the locations of your SKUs as well as the current pick velocity for these items. Use the data you collect to make more informed decisions about your layout.
8. Utilization of Paper Processes
As touched upon previously, many warehouses use paper-based processes with minimal technology integration. Even though technology has helped the warehouse management industry become increasingly efficient, certain warehouse managers believe the upfront costs are too high for making such a change. However, the upfront costs will be covered by improved efficiency and lower operational costs in the long run.
When you use manual and paper-based processes in your warehouse, there’s a higher risk of experiencing missing paperwork and making mistakes. Keep in mind that your personnel will also need to spend additional hours managing the excess paperwork, which adds to your costs.
There are several different types of technologies you can integrate into your facility to eliminate the inefficiencies of paper-based processes. These technologies include pick-to-voice (PTV), pick-to-light (PTL), and augmented reality (AR). Using each of these systems in your warehouse will help you improve efficiency and lower your costs.
For instance, a pick-to-light system is an order-fulfillment technology that’s capable of boosting picking accuracy by using buttons and alphanumeric displays around your storage areas to effectively guide your personnel in light-assisted sorting, assembling, and picking.
7. Failure to Plan for the Future
The warehouse industry is an ever-changing landscape, which is why it’s a mistake to not plan for the future. The things that work for your warehouse now might not produce the same results in the future.
If you experience growth in the future, you might encounter problems if you haven’t performed growth planning. For instance, you might not evaluate your processes on a regular basis, which means that inefficiencies won’t be caught until they do significant damage.
It’s also important that you remain aware of any changes that affect the industry. You should consider performing an annual evaluation of your warehouse and the infrastructure you use. This evaluation should tell you if new technologies need to be adopted to stay at the forefront of the industry. Monthly and quarterly reviews are also highly recommended to make sure you’re getting closer to your goals. Consider looking into simulation and material handling services to determine where additional efficiencies can be had.
6. Lack of Appreciation for VAS
Value added services (VAS) are important for any warehouse. They give you the ability to differentiate your business or brand and can be a major source of revenue. However, attempting to add more value to your customers via non-core services can be an issue for your facility’s productivity and efficiency if you place too much of a focus on them. Conduct time studies to determine what the impact of these services will be on production. Material handling simulations can also be helpful and will provide you with the ability to test changes to your warehouse before you implement them.
5. Lack of Staff Development and Training
If your company has strict time constraints and budgets, you may be putting your personnel on the warehouse floor without having given them the training they need to maintain safe practices. In turn, you may notice an uptick in injuries, expenses, and inefficiencies. Without the proper training, it’s also unlikely that you’ll be able to retain your staff members for a lengthy period of time.
Providing your staff with consistent training and development opportunities should help these individuals improve their skills and bring more success to your business. Over time, you’ll notice that your warehouse is more profitable and staff turnover and accidents are kept to a minimum. If you don’t yet have any in place, it’s highly recommended that you create detailed training and career development plans that your employees can take advantage of.
4. Poor Overall Facility Layout
An inefficient facility layout limits the amount of growth your business can have. The most important aspects of your operations need to have the right amount of space to maintain efficiency. Make sure that you assess current flows in your warehouse. If personnel need to travel long distances when picking or transporting items, you should take steps to eliminate this waste. Consult with experts about your layout design. It’s possible that modifications will need to be made.
3. Lack of Safety Policies and Enforcement
Warehouse injuries are all too common. While injuries are possible even when you have strong safety and enforcement policies in place, the risk of injury is significantly higher if you neglect workplace safety. Even if the injuries are minor, the affected employees won’t be as productive as before. You may also be tasked with paying high fees for worker compensation claims, which is why it’s best to enforce safety policies and take an active approach in promoting a safe work environment.
2. Poor Housekeeping
If you don’t keep your warehouse clean, you may notice that your facility is becoming less efficient. In most cases, the dirtiest distribution centers and warehouses are badly managed and highly inefficient. If you look around your warehouse floor and notice shrink wrap film lying around or discarded and broken pallet boards taking up space, you’ll know that you have some work to do.
Along with creating certain safety risks, having an unclean warehouse also tells your personnel that they don’t need to take cleanliness into account, which can lead to additional issues with productivity. The easiest way to remedy this problem is by assigning a small amount of cleaning time for each of your employees during their shifts. When employees are proud of where they work, they are more likely to perform at a high level and remain with the company for years. You’ll also be doing your part to keep employee morale high.
1. Lack of Preventative Maintenance
If you find that materials and equipment in your warehouse are breaking on a regular basis, there’s a good chance that you haven’t performed enough preventive maintenance. Keep in mind that maintenance services are much more affordable when compared to repair services. Equipment breakdowns also result in high downtime costs. While it’s possible to hire a full-time maintenance team that works in-house, the best option is to invest in preventive maintenance programs through contracts with outside companies. You’ll benefit from lower repair costs and less equipment breakdowns.
Avoiding some of the most common mistakes associated with warehouse management is a great first step in improving warehouse efficiency and reducing costs. The mistakes that you should avoid include everything from not performing preventive maintenance to having an inefficient facility layout.
Once you minimize your mistakes, you should then focus on implementing best practices for warehouse management. In time, you should notice that it’s much easier for you to reach your goals and keep bottlenecks from developing. Seek expert assistance in creating and implementing effective material handling solutions in your warehouse.