Everyone’s warehouse is in a different phase of evolution from brand new designs to this is what I have to deal with. The most important thing to keep in mind when creating or overhauling any warehouse is efficiency. Below are a few ideas to get you started on a path to supercharge your warehouse efficiency.
- Create a Floor Plan
Floor plans are tricky, you may not get it right the first, second or even the third time. A warehouse is forever evolving; often short on space and always needs attention. The first thing on your to do list is to create a warehouse layout schematic. It doesn’t matter whether it’s a new warehouse or old, start fresh with this task. When doing this think about what you are storing, and which items will be loaded more frequently as those items should often be placed close to the loading dock doors. Think about traffic flow patterns and the type of material handling equipment you have access to or intend to purchase. Shorten aisles, explore drive in racking and stack racking. Use every type of product available in the marketplace to improve your warehouse layout. Do you have a mezzanine? Will you need an elevator, conveyor belt, or stairs to get things down? Don’t have a mezzanine? Does it make sense to add one? How about outdoor storage? When you are considering the usable space for your floorplan make sure to include your outdoor space. It’s just as important as the space inside the warehouse.
- Warehouse Inventory Management System
Now that you have created the best floor plan possible with what you have access to. The next step is deciding on a warehouse inventory management system that will control all the assets in your warehouse, minimize costs and bottlenecks, manage current and future stock requirements, and help you maintain service levels for both internal and external customers. You need this type of system to operate and there are many options that are industry specific on the marketplace.
- Labels, Barcodes and RFID
Countless hours are lost each week in a warehouse due to lost, misplaced, improperly tagged, or labeled assets. Other time killers include incomplete or incorrect orders.
Warehouse technology, when properly used can minimize or eliminate all of these issues!
Depending on what assets you are storing you may choose to use stick on labels or printed tags to identify items. These stickers may contain scannable barcodes or QR codes. QR codes are a great option because they can do so much more than a simple barcode. For example: you can have a QR code launch a page on your website that contains, product manuals, pictures, descriptions and so much more. Another option are RFID tags, RFID tags are the newest game changer and are growing in popularity within the rental industry. RFID tags allow you to attach a tag either internally or externally to an item and what makes these tags so popular is that a scanner does not require a direct line of sight in order to read the item. For example you don’t need to open a package or unroll an item to see what it is. This system connects to a database and can connect to your main inventory management system or act as a standalone system to solve a specific need.
- Lots and Lots of Signage
Many warehouses will use bin locations to help the order picker identify where an asset is but sometimes that may not be enough. Consider adding pictures to your pallet racking both at the end of the aisles and perhaps on the rack where the item is located. Label traffic flow patterns, fire extinguisher locations, medical stations, and eye wash stations. Label everything! There is no such thing as too many labels or too many signs. Make everything so clear that a first day employee can understand it.
- Audit Your Warehouse
In order to be more efficient, you need to know what your baseline currently is. Spend some time looking at your most repetitive tasks and see how long it takes to complete them. Ask yourself what if I did this? What if I moved this? Sometimes a simple change in where something is located or how you operate will make a big difference at the end of the day. Don’t be afraid to use a stopwatch and have fun with your staff. Once you complete the most popular tasks move on to other areas with the same concept.
- Visit Other Warehouses
Visit other warehouses to see what works and what doesn’t work. You will see that a properly run warehouse has already implemented the above ideas and is focused on safety, cleanliness, efficiency, technology, and a culture of nothing is just good enough!