10 Tips for Improving Warehouse Operations
Improving warehouse operations is crucial to ensure orders get out on time and in full. Optimization and resource scheduling technology can help to increase efficiencies, reduce costs, and guarantee customer satisfaction.
1. Optimize warehouse layout and improve space utilization. Reconfigure the warehouse layout to minimize travel distances for workers and inventory. Use more vertical space with high-density racks, vertical shelves, and AS/RS systems. A WMS can improve space utilization by optimizing slotting, product placement, and storage strategies.
2. Automate operational decision-making. Consider an automated planning system that optimizes the work historically released and executed by public warehouse workers. An automated planner orchestrates all the complex inbound and outbound work that must be done, considering all constraints to maximize efficiency. Automated planning helps free the workforce to handle any issues that may pop up.
3. Use a warehouse management system. A WMS tracks and manages inventory accurately. It can prioritize inventory items and allocate space accordingly. A WMS provides real-time visibility into inventory levels, locations, and movements, which reduces stockouts, overstocking, and order fulfillment errors.
4. Streamline order picking. Implement efficient strategies such as batch picking, which allows pickers to efficiently pick multiple orders in a single pass. Zone picking assigns workers to specific zones to reduce travel time. Wave picking divides orders into waves based on priority, size, or destination. Use handheld picking devices or voice technologies to reduce errors and improve speed.
5. Understand automation’s limits. Automation alone may not be the answer. The harsh reality is that automated technology for picking, retrieving, staging, and shipping takes a lot of work and operating expenses to maintain the same amount of output compared to paying traditional labor more.
6. Train and upskill warehouse staff. Ongoing training helps employees learn new techniques and best practices. Training on safety protocols and equipment usage reduces the risk of accidents and injuries. Ongoing training ensures that employees are aware of and compliant with any new regulations that must be adhered to, which reduces fines and legal issues.
7. Measure performance with KPIs. Key performance indicators (KPIs) provide quantifiable metrics that help you assess how well your warehouse operations perform and whether they align with your business goals. Choose relevant metrics such as picking accuracy, order cycle time, on-time delivery, order fill rate, and employee productivity. Regularly review KPIs and adjust based on data and feedback.
8. Eliminate chaos in the yard. Release work intelligently based on labor capacity, inventory availability, and demand. Optimally sequence inbounds and outbounds to proactively expand cross-docking and interleaving. Drive capacity-constrained yard moves—what trailer, where, when—to manage door turn times and reduce detention.
9. Manage intra-campus moves. Shippers often have campuses with multiple buildings with unique process flows. Inventory, receipts, transfers, and shipments must be optimized across multiple buildings with the right timing to minimize touches. Managing intra-campus moves efficiently requires technology that carefully plans and organizes every detail. Each inventory transfer costs between $150 and $500; a reduction in transfers can save millions.
10. Use intelligent warehouse orchestration that integrates with a WMS. Often called WMS accelerators, these tools adapt and rebalance activities based on what happens inside a warehouse in near-real time. WMS accelerators rearrange schedules, review labor requirements, schedule replenishments, cross-dock orders, and ensure shipments arrive on time and in full.
SOURCE: Keith Moore, CEO, AutoScheduler.AI