Six Ways to Improve Warehouse Productivity
by B. Balasubramanian, Deputy General Manager, Business Excellence & Implementation.
Supply chain is a constantly evolving practice due to advancements in technology and the changes being implemented by the Government.
So how does one ensure improvement in warehousing productivity in these times? Let’s have a look at six key factors that govern the efficiency of a warehouse.
Your employees are your strength
Keeping employees happy is an art of its own form. This starts with developing efficient frontline management. Training your frontline managers makes sure the overall efficiency of the warehouse improves. They are all about optimizations and they have the power to ensure the staff’s goals are properly aligned. Also, managing shift changes and handovers, lunch and tea breaks efficiently will ensure achievement of hourly productivity targets.
Productivity targets should be frequently revisited and benchmarked with industry standards. Learning curve should also be considered to ensure that productivity achievement trends are always on the upward move.
Additionally, keeping employee morale high results in better results and effectiveness. Studies have shown that light music and frequent positive feedback are known to improve warehouse efficiency. In addition to these actions, incentivizing work beyond KRA’s and asking for employee feedback are excellent areas for improvement.
Technology – Identification, Customisation and Implementation
The efficiency of a warehouse is defined by its speed and accuracy. Keeping an eye on the newest technologies in the market goes a long way in improving the pace and precision of warehouse activities. Investment in wireless technologies for inventory management has proven to be a major boon for storage companies by reducing labour costs, increasing accuracy and saving valuable time. A step further is investment in weight-based ordering systems, which is yet another highly proven tool in the market. This mechanism gauges the inventory level based on the weight of the items occupying the storage area and places an order to the vendor automatically if the levels fall, followed by an automated payment system.
Newer technologies like voice-enabled control are also being made available to businesses of all sizes. These are known for quick installations; lesser dependencies and they do not require much training. New cold chain technologies are making their presence felt as well, with temperature-sensitive movable storage, pallet cover systems that are as light as bottles and much more.
Optimized warehousing activities
It is always a good idea to optimize warehouse activities based on the merchandise. Many warehousing professionals make the mistake of standardizing activities, which may not prove advantageous in the long run. Taking the shelf life and dispatch rates into consideration ensures saving of precious time and funds. For instance, simply implementing procedures based on the FIFO and LIFO methodologies may not be the best idea, if the dispatch priorities are dynamic. Storing items with lower shelf lives near the staging area is a great step towards efficiency, which automatically ensures heavy picks to be organized last. This way, the efforts for moving bulk items directly to the staging area is streamlined. Additionally, reducing touch points by eliminating unnecessary processes, or combining them, works wonders towards saving time and costs.
Waste management and Resource Deployment
Wastages in the process like managing excess inventory, over-processing of orders, waiting time for resources etc. should be correctly identified and eliminated effectively.
Monitoring of projected orders vis-a-vis actual orders should be consistently done, and resources should be deployed/cross-deployed according to the ramp-up or ramp down.
An efficient WMS is pure magic
Your entire fulfilment chain can be efficiently optimized by implementing a good warehouse management system (WMS). Investing in a good WMS can help enhance every process, right from reconfiguring storage to pick-pack activities, ensuring a dramatic fall in cost, effort and time. It is the single most effective tool to boost the overall productivity of any warehouse, going a long way in the collective profitability. Many systems today are designed to cater to specific needs of the warehouse they are serving, providing tailored solutions. This is a huge advantage that new-age warehousing professionals are making the most of.
Predict vendor actions
Warehousing activities often suffer due to unexpected delays and unpredictable delivery schedules. Planning activities as per the promised deadlines may not necessarily be the best idea. For instance, the lead time and delivery time may vary drastically, based on the efficiency of the vendor. Having strictly enforced SLAs with vendors and consistent monitoring should be done. However, it is always a smart move to be well-versed with the history of the vendor’s actions to plan activities around. Having this knowledge beforehand may help warehousing professionals quickly organize ad-hoc actions to accommodate the unexpected in-flow. Staying acquainted with vendor history is powerful, as it enables the mobilization of staff to serve them better, resulting in faster turnovers.
A smart warehouse is an efficient warehouse. We are, after all, in the business of making our clients happy, aren’t we?