Managing warehouse fulfillment requires handling labor, freight, and inventory; three pieces with numerous factors. Properly managing, storing, and shipping goods is important not just for organizational reasons, but for profiting purposes as well. Any method that can improve your warehouse’s productivity or efficiency benefits the people that ship to you and those that you ship out to. Consider these methods when looking for ways to improve warehouse fulfillment productivity.
Warehouse fulfillment involves a great deal of manpower. Storing and retrieving products and pick-and-pack services are going to be large parts of your business. As a result, productivity can be improved by finding ways to spur and motivate employees. Plans for incentive pay or reward systems, especially in pick-and-pack areas, can help encourage more activity and better workflows.
One of the issues longstanding businesses have is that over time, the procedures learned upon first being hired will change. Steps get added or removed, functions shift, and sometimes things are eliminated entirely. This is a natural part of business growth. But it means that the formal process ends up as a jumbled mix of ad hoc and standard procedures. It can be beneficial to step back to untangle things and sit down to work out a proper, smooth, standard set of procedures that reflects how your warehouse works in the present day. Having a set of standard procedures for all aspects of your operation also saves time and reduces the risk of errors.
Warehouses are big. As your business grows, they will only get bigger. However, expanding the footprint of your warehouse is not the only way to improve your available space. For instance, taller storage units can allow you to leverage any vertical space your warehouse offers. Alternatively (or in addition), different types of shelving can make things run more smoothly. Pallet racks may be good for medium to large-sized products, but if you store small items on them you will only waste space and find it easier to misplace them. Making sure your shelving and stocking methods match the variety of what you house is a good way to improve efficiency and maximize how much of your warehouse can be used.
Get the Metrics
You can’t improve something you don’t know how to measure. Look at what is important to you as a manager, your customers, and your shareholders (if any). Find a way to measure that element. Take special note of what circumstances or activities can result in variance, then work to reduce and eliminate them. Possible examples could include delays due to weather, periods you find yourself short-handed, or times of excess demand that stretch resources more than normal. Consider ways to even out these spikes and drops and you will end up with a smooth and steady stream of production.
It is important for your managerial staff to be able to effectively and clearly communicate your goals and processes to warehouse workers. This leads to better productivity because it ensures that everyone is on the same page and understands not only what they need to do but why as well. The latter part can be an important motivational factor since it is easier for people to give their full effort to a task when they understand the purpose behind it. Additionally, work environments that are receptive to open communication help improve employee moral and reduce turnover rates along with the resultant productivity losses that would ensue.
Harness Warehouse Management Technology
Warehouse management systems (WMS) are a handy and powerful tool that can dramatically improve the productivity and efficiency of any warehouse operation. WMS modules work by providing a central source for numerous features, such as suggesting ideal routes for pick-and-pack services or putting away goods. WMS can also be set up to provide automated pick lists, which can then be instantly transmitted to any wireless device. This enhances efficiency, speeds up processes, and reduces the use of paper forms. Incorporating WMS with barcode or RFID readers can also be used to enhance order accuracy and improve productivity through the reduce rate of errors.
Practice Labor Optimization
Take a hard look at your warehouse’s work habits and practices, and search for ways to optimize existing procedures. Common examples can include storing high-volume items near the front of the warehouse to reduce travel time or to store items frequently ordered together near one another. Simply applying a bit of common sense and making sure the most in-demand items are in the most accessible locations can help enhance the performance of any warehouse. Other optimization methods can be used as well. For instance, taking steps to keep workstations organized can enhance productivity by making sure every tool or piece of equipment your workers need is immediately available and easy to find.
Educate and Empower Your Leadership
Inertia is a corrosive force that can eat away at warehouse productivity. It is up to your leadership team to combat this by spotting problems or areas for improvement, devising methods to achieve the change, and successfully implement the appropriate actions. Getting your warehouse leadership to fulfill this role is a two-pronged approach. First, they need to be educated in how to spot inefficiencies and trained in devising solutions. Second, your workplace must have a culture that supports the initiative to gather information and attempt change if the leadership believes it will result in improvements. Just because a practice is working fine now doesn’t mean it couldn’t still be enhanced in the future, so the ability and willingness to take these sorts of actions will go a long way to keeping productivity and competitiveness high.
Consider Third-Party Fulfillment
Third-party logistics (3PL) companies are firms that regularly partner with businesses to provide enhanced warehousing and supply chain services. If you find that you lack the infrastructure or expertise to maintain a highly productive warehousing operation, then 3PL partnerships should be given consideration. These arrangements can benefit companies by providing them with scalable, flexible warehousing space, talented workers, and managerial staff, along with a large partner who can help leverage better shipping deals and routes.
APS Fulfillment, Inc. is a specialist in direct-mail marketing and warehouse fulfillment and is based in Miami, Florida. We’ve stored, sorted, and delivered products of all shapes and sizes for all kinds of companies and are more than prepared for the exciting challenges waiting in the new year. Contact us by phone at 954-582-7450 or by email at [email protected] for more ways third-party warehousing and fulfillment services can support and grow your business.