Work Smart: Improving Warehouse Efficiency

There is always room for improvement, even in the simplest things. Did you know that traditional tape heads can take up to 2 minutes to change? This process can cost up to $40,000 in lost productivity per year. Just think, if the small and simple process of changing a tape head can cost that much, imagine how much an inefficient warehouse procedure can cost. Maximizing efficiency in your warehouse starts with an analysis of the way things operate, from how long it takes to replace a tape head to the layout of the warehouse floor. Once you’ve analyzed the process, it’s important to put a plan in place so that you can get as much efficiency (and as much profit) from your operation as possible.

Every warehouse is different, and so there is no one universal plan that will work for everyone. It is important to be aware of your warehouse’s specific limitations and possibilities, and then tailor your plan to that. However, there are guidelines to help you get started on a plan to maximize your efficiency. The Chartered Institute of Procurement & Supply lists 5 simple ways to improve your warehouse efficiency:

1)   Maximize and optimize all available space – In a warehouse, time is money, and the best way to save time is to make sure space is being fully utilized. You can achieve more space without increasing your warehouse footprint by simply making better use of your vertical shelving. Storing the right items on the right shelves can be a huge space saver and help keep your warehouse more organized, making it easier to find items and save time.

2)   Lean inventory – “The basic premise of lean is to have only what you need, and nothing more.” Analyzing inventory trends can help you reduce “safety stocks” and free up space in your warehouse that may otherwise be taken up by dead stock.

3)   Adopt enabling technology – A warehouse management system (WMS) can be crucial for improving efficiency by “suggesting the best routes and methods for picking or put-away.” It can also generate automated pick lists that can help reduce mistakes. You can utilize barcode or radio frequency identification (RFID) readers to reduce picking errors and improve transaction accuracy. In fact, “research conducted at the University of Arkansas shows that using RFID increased inventory accuracy by 27 percent in just 13 weeks.”

4)   Organize workstations – An unorganized warehouse can lead to wasted time, safety hazards and picking errors. To help get your warehouse organized and increase efficiency, try using the “5S method:” Sort, Set in order, Shine, Standardize, and Sustain.

5)   Optimize labor efficiency – A WMS can help generate picking plans, but if you don’t have that ability then it is important to create them manually. Some ideas for creating an efficient picking plan are: Analyze material usage patterns, store high-volume items together and closest to loading docks, and store items that are frequently sold together near each other.

Just because something works doesn’t mean it can’t be improved. It is important to take a look at the way things operate, and then take steps to ensure they are as efficient as possible. Put a procedure in place that ensures you are getting the maximum efficiency out of your daily operations. From minimizing the time it takes to replace a tape head to reducing the time it takes to pull and fill an order, work smarter, not harder.

Reference: “Five simple ways to improve warehouse efficiency.” CIPS, Accessed 16 August 2018.