Best practices for warehouse operations

Warehouse operations can be complex with many different pieces’ contingent on the perfection of each step.   One mistake has further ramifications down the line.  However, if set it up correctly to ensure efficiency and accuracy all along the way, it can reduce costs, increase output, and improve customer satisfaction. Below are some of the ways to enhance operations by adopting these best practices.

Warehouse space needs to be maximized.  Real Estate is becoming more expensive and less available forcing businesses to fit more product in existing space.  Proper racking is critical to ensure no wasted space in the building or within the bunks.  Slotting must be done specifically to accommodate the right space for small verse large picking and bulk storage.  Barcode systems can be used to ensure you know where the product is, but advanced software is required to ensure you use all available space.  Seeing gaps in the bunks is known as “honeycombing”, which means you have space to put more product that is being wasted.  If this is the case, re-evaluate your racking designs or your software ability.

Proper slotting of goods then results in better picking.  Use an A, B, C and 1, 2, 3 method, where A’s and 1’s are closer to the ground and the shipping doors.  Place high moving products in these slots closer to the ground and the shipping doors to maximize pick time.  Skids are easiest picked from the floor with hand carts.  Boxes are best picked at a roughly shoulder height, on racks just above the skids.  Boxes can then be picked while standing on the ground instead of using equipment.  Boxes also require smaller bunks which maximizes space above them. Small items need small spaces with lots of little slots to grab from.  Bulk can be put in areas with the higher up and further from the door.  All slots need to be barcode labeled to record each product placement.

Utilize best picking methods for efficiency. This will also be contingent on the ability of your software to create the most effective path, otherwise staff will spend too much time traveling to complete an order. After your slots have been properly numbered/lettered, a sequence can be deployed so that the picker goes in a single straight line to retrieve each item.  The simplest picking routine is one picker per one order.  For many operations, more complex ways of picking are more effective such as one picker to many orders, many pickers to one order, or many pickers to many orders.  Critical to picking is the product is where it is supposed to be, the best units of measure are chosen, FIFO is achieved, and avoiding two pickers going for the same product.

Cycle counting is another way to achieve savings.  The old method of shutting down operations to do a full physical count is very costly yet does not represent revenue to pay for it.  It is better to implement systems that naturally achieve the same results on an ongoing basis.  This can be from software reports with the last touch date, pickers doing visual inspections during their routine, or small batches of counts done in slow periods.  Cycle counting is not only cheaper but helps to avoid stockouts because the information is kept more up to date.  Stockouts are when a picker cannot find the product in the slot it is supposed to be, maybe not at all.  This is a major cost to avoid because productivity is halted and customer promises cannot be met.

Implementing a Warehouse Management Solution can give maximum efficiency. A complete WMS with software and barcode hardware will determine how much efficiency you can gain.  A WMS solution will give management more control, increase accuracy above 99% and typically reduce costs by 25%.   Another benefit of a WMS is that it will integrate with your ERP system to ensure all your inventory is up to date for accounting purposes.

About ProVision WMS

A product of Ahearn & Soper, ProVision WMS is an off the shelf software solution. It enables distribution centers and Third Party Logistics (3PL) companies to rapidly improve warehouse operations and meet growing demands. The software was created over a decade ago based on a .Net platform. It is easy to integrate with an Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) System or Transportation Management System (TMS). Development and improvements to the software are ongoing with new revisions released to the customers regularly. The company is headquartered in Toronto, Ontario. For more information on our warehouse management solutions, contact us today.