Warehouse optimisation improves workflow efficiency and supports optimal inventory control, productivity and performance. By optimising the design and flow of your warehouse you can also significantly increase storage and improve order fulfilment rates.
Improving workflow efficiency will help you achieve better order fulfilment. Reducing the time it takes for your products to reach your customers is important because any delays or inconveniences your customers experience increases the likelihood they will take their business elsewhere.
With more consumers shopping online, there is increased pressure on suppliers to grow and expand inventory stock¸ which in turn requires additional storage space.
To maximise your warehouse storage, you can make better use of vertical space by utilising taller storage systems and pallet racking that increases storage capacity without the need or expense of expanding your warehouse.
Reconfigure the warehouse to take advantage of every inch of available space and consider different types of shelving based on the variety of items being stored. Use standardised bins to help keep shelves tidy and make product picking as seamless as possible.
Analyse your material usage patterns and streamline operations to keep the frequently picked items in the most accessible locations to eliminate picking delays. Store high-volume items near the shipping area to reduce travel time and any items that are frequently sold together should also be stored close together.
The time spent by staff to locate and pick items and move between orders is one of the largest resource costs of your warehouse. By implementing a warehouse management system, you can reduce some of this overhead expense.
A good warehouse management system will record all product data and its location in the warehouse, improving pick and stow routes. The system will optimise the path for pickers, reducing the time spent walking and searching for individual items. As your inwards goods are recorded, the system will also direct where each product should be placed.
Workflow efficiency relies on having an established workflow for every activity and process required for moving products from the moment they arrive in your warehouse to the moment they leave. Standardised your workflows to ensure that all employees operate to the same guidelines in the most efficient way. This also enables you to measure individual performance against established benchmarks for each section of the workflow.
Keep work bays organised and clutter-free to enhance workflow, reduce errors and improve safety. Organise individual workstations to improve productivity and reduce the need for staff to have to search for tools or equipment.
Workstations should be designed to a specific task and the employees undertaking them to reduce the risk of injuries caused by repetitive, manual tasks. By increasing ergonomic benefits, you can drive greater efficiency and productivity in daily workflows.
Automated storage and retrieval systems can increase picking accuracy while yielding greater inventory control.
Warehouse management systems and inventory control solutions improve workflow efficiency by suggesting the best routes and methods for picking or put-away. Automated pick lists can be generated and sent to mobile readers and devices, helping to reduce time and paper waste.
Technology such as barcodes or RFID readers help to eliminate mistakes and the human error of manual processes. They significantly reducing picking errors and optimise order fulfilment to save you the costs associated with processing returns, shipping fees and customer service personnel.
Inventory control systems lower the occurrence of stockouts or overstocking by automating product replenishment. You can set par levels to generate purchase orders when inventory levels are low and set a maximum inventory level to avoid over-ordering.
Adopt lean inventory
The basic premise of lean is to only stock what you need and not a single item more. By leveraging lean principles, you can improve business process and workflow efficiency.
Lean practices maintain a focus on continuous process improvement to drive productivity and efficiency in the warehouse. Improving cost, quality, service and delivery while simultaneously eliminating waste.
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.