Warehouse efficiency comes from monitoring warehouse procedures, instituting changes that reduce the time taken to do certain tasks, multi-tasking wherever possible and eliminating unnecessary processes.
Warehouse procedures include everything from ordering to inventory control and the warehouse floor. Inefficiencies can be identified by monitoring and improving various areas including manpower, handling and storage.
Multi-tasking is the order of the day with all warehouse personnel required to be trained in computer use, picking and packing as well as licensed to operate forklifts and other lifting equipment. Rather than travelling the length of the warehouse and back to complete an order, pickers should be monitored and inefficiencies eliminated by giving them several orders to fill for the same item or several orders for items located in the same area of the warehouse.
Procedures should be monitored for double handling, which often occurs if stock is stored incorrectly or the warehouse has too much stock. If orders are placed in such a way that stock arrives only when needed, double handling can be reduced, if not eliminated. Also called ‘just in time’ inventory, which is practised by many warehouses, the process requires good communication with suppliers to ensure a smooth working supply chain.
Warehouse storage requires intelligent planning to ensure that items in demand are stored as close to the shipping areas as possible. By monitoring the sales data, one can identify these items to avoid wasted time and manpower involved in constantly fetching them from within the warehouse.
These faster moving items can be delivered to a special area within the shipping department, so they can be sorted and repacked if necessary and shipped immediately, eliminating the need for storage. Called ‘cross-docking’, this process is also commonly used in efficient warehouses.
Conversely, rarely required or slow moving items can be stored at the back of the warehouse and even stored higher to eliminate problems with access to more frequently requested items.
Extremely slow moving items may be considered for removal from the inventory altogether as they make little profit and take up valuable storage space. Storage monitoring ensures maximum use is being made of every inch of warehouse space.
Storage efficiency can be further improved by monitoring the travel times involved for storing, picking and retrieval of various items in the warehouse. Computer programs are available that use bar code systems for tracking the travel time.
Travel time of materials handling equipment such as forklifts and pallet jacks can also be monitored using computer tracking software.
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