If you have worked in warehouses for any time, you have started to develop an intuition for good management techniques. You can likely tell the instant you walk into a well-managed warehouse, or conversely, one that makes you wonder how anything gets shipped at all.
Company profitability directly links to how well merchandise flows into and out of the warehouse. So if it’s your responsibility to operate one of these critical business channels, here are five tips to help you keep things running smoothly and efficiently.
Design the Space for Humans
In the past, warehouse managers considered their space adequate if it was large enough to hold the required inventory. Now, efficient warehouse design means that the space configuration is just as necessary as how much of it there is. Therefore, you must consider how many steps employees waste each day because of warehouse floor space and supply storage arrangement. One of the best ways to figure out how to configure your area is to ask the employees who work in that space all day long. They know the best way to set things up to speed up the workflow. Ask them what they think, and they will probably be anxious to share their thoughts with you.
Workers sometimes resist new ways of doing things. But, when you can demonstrate how much more smoothly things can run when computers mitigate human error, most people come around reasonably quickly. For example, using tools like a scanner and a printed asset label readily replaces entering freight numbers by hand. Inventory control and processing become more controlled, predictable, and easier on the employees who do the work.
Computerized ordering systems, automated product conveyance and tracing and tracking technologies can help fewer workers keep up with more inventory. Technology also allows the employees to do a better job by assisting them to stay more organized.
Educate Employees on Systems
Ensure that your employees, especially your team leaders, are well-versed in your operation. Help them become experts on the supply chain related to your business and the operation of the warehouse they help manage. The more they know, the better they will become at making good decisions without your direct supervision. In addition, their autonomy will help them take ownership of their positions and have the net effect of a better work ethic and production for your team.
Keep Inventory Levels Right
Knowing when to order and when to wait is an art form that takes time to develop. Help your employees learn the ebbs and flows of inventory. If they understand why levels are where they are during any given season, they will be better able to show resilience when conditions begin to change.
Maintaining the wrong inventory levels can lead to waste or missed sales. Working with your team to instruct them on how to order for your business will strengthen your ties with the back end of your operation and create a better workflow for the entire company.
Cultivate a Culture of Safety
Few things cripple work efficiency in warehouses as much as on-the-job accidents. Unfortunately, accidents are typically avoidable, and they are always expensive. Aside from the pain and suffering of the injured employee, mishaps also undermine other workers’ confidence that they are safe on the job. This leeriness tends to slow down the work rate as employees exercise too much caution. The solution is to emphasize an atmosphere of safety with regular meetings and seminars on the proper use of equipment. Through intensive education, workers will gain confidence in the safety measures that protect them and are less likely to attempt to circumvent them.
Putting a little thought into how your warehouse utilizes available tools will go a long way toward modernizing your operation. As a result, you will soon notice more efficiency, better morale and higher profit margins.