Managing a warehouse is a complex and multi-faceted job. There are many factors affecting inventory management that need to be considered when you’re looking after a warehouse: stock levels need to be kept at healthy levels and shipments need to go out on time; staff schedules and training need to be organised; overhead costs need to be paid. Keep in mind, this is just for one warehouse. When companies grow, they will outgrow their warehouse. For many companies, this means adding multiple warehouses. Suddenly, the challenges of one warehouse are magnified over multiple warehouses.
Here’s a closer look at some of the factors affecting inventory management across multiple warehouses.
Optimising your warehouse layout is important to avoid extra work for employees. With multiple warehouses, each one will be slightly different in size. Some might have high ceilings, while others are long and narrow. Some might have one shipping entrance for inward and outward goods, while others have two sets of doors for these goods. However, if you keep the fast-moving and popular goods near the shipping door, you’ll save time no matter which warehouse you’re in. This saves forklift drivers and employees time during the allocation stage. A smart warehouse layout can make a huge difference.
Where’s your inventory located?
One of the biggest factors affecting inventory management across multiple warehouses is knowing where your inventory is located. When there are multiple warehouses, inventory needs to be managed closely. Cloud-based technology can help locate inventory if it’s logged into the same system. It can quickly bring up real-time information about where the product is located. However, a company needs to implement this system with multiple warehouses before it can reap the benefits. Otherwise, there will be a lot of calls and emails back and forth to try and track down certain products.
When you have multiple warehouses, it’s strategic to decide their main purpose. Some warehouses will have the same inventory in both locations. However, the second warehouse is just closer in proximity to other customers. This reduces shipping time and can increase customer satisfaction.
Other warehouses are strictly for eCommerce purposes. Sometimes businesses opt to keep their normal retail inventory separate to their eCommerce inventory. Ultimately, the eCommerce side of a business may run completely independently of the brick-and-mortar store. When assessing your need for multiple warehouses, be sure you have a clear idea of each one’s purpose.
If your staff moves between different warehouses, it’s important that they know how to navigate their way around the spaces. As we talked about, each location will look slightly different. There may be new health and safety hazards at one warehouse.
Communication is critical for the success of any warehouse. It would be helpful for staff to come together from multiple warehouses to get to know each other and share work experiences. If staff members from one warehouse are having difficulties with a certain system or task, other warehouse staff might have some advice. Overall, it’s great to listen to staff opinions and continuously improve warehouse systems.
Article by Melanie Chan in collaboration with our team of Unleashed Software inventory and business specialists. Melanie has been writing about inventory management for the past three years. When not writing about inventory management, you can find her eating her way through Auckland.