June 2013 | How-To | Ten Tips

Optimizing Warehouse Operations

Tags: Warehousing

Warehouse operations efficiency is key to the success of any company that processes, inventories, and ships orders. When efficiency lags, products may not arrive at customer destinations on time, orders can get lost, and low inventory levels can result in stockouts. Here's some advice on optimizing warehouse operations from Chris Castaldi, manager of business development at materials handling equipment systems integrator W&H Systems.

1. Minimize the number of touches. Manual operations slow movement through the warehouse and can introduce errors. Automate picking, packing, and shipping processes to minimize the number of times humans touch products and orders.

2. Offload some WMS processes to a Warehouse Control System (WCS). WCS solutions help manage materials handling equipment in real time, which will maximize system throughput and performance, and provide visibility to potential logjams.

3. Stock materials using logical sequencing that is meaningful for workers. Prevent goods from being misplaced by storing them where workers will intuitively look for them.

4. Gather real-time operations intelligence on warehousing processes. Ever-changing customer demands dictate the flexibility requirements of existing facilities. To support continual warehouse process improvement, and ensure business goals are being met, gather and analyze real-time data from order fulfillment technology and materials handling equipment. Benchmarking performance and analyzing collected data can facilitate more informed decisions about how to respond to changing customer requirements and business goals.

5. Upgrade selectively. Don't just implement the latest, greatest module from your WMS vendor. The added complexity may slow operations, befuddle staff, and generate unnecessary work.

6. Gain end-to-end visibility throughout the facility and processes. Eliminating silos in the warehouse—from the loading dock through delivery and transport operations—removes barriers to growth and innovation. In many organizations, supply chain executives and corporate operations plan independently, often negatively impacting corporate goals. Maximize profits and establish competitive advantage with cross-functional organizational plans.

7. Align warehouse operations with key business goals. Even if facing pressure from customers to implement changes, don't ignore your overall business objectives. Focus on actions that meet strategies.

8. Implement equipment to automate warehousing processes. Warehouse automation increases throughput, eliminates errors, and heightens shipping, picking, packing, storage, crossdocking, and labor performance.

9. Establish flexibility and agility in the warehouse. You want to be able to make changes fast when you face competitive pressures. Select a WMS that seamlessly integrates with your ERP and supply chain systems.

10. Establish key performance indicators. Measure results, and implement changes to improve your business performance.