In this new series we will explore top tips on how to improve inventory management in the warehouse. This week we will take a closer look at the primary sources for order fulfillment issues and how 3PLs, warehouses and distribution centers are preventing these problems as well as how SKU organization and monitoring traffic in your warehouse can help reduce errors and lost inventory.
Tip #1: How Can We Improve Order Fulfillment?
What is the most frequent cause of inventory fulfillment issues?
Human error from manual processes. Lack of accurate, timely information about inventory in the warehouse also can affect deliveries to consumers and order fulfillment rates.
Your business also needs complete, accurate real time information about inventory in the warehouse in order to meet consumer expectations. This will aid in providing consistent, on time order delivery to consumers. Having real time inventory visibility can help provide your customer service and operations team as well as 3PL customers with information they need to make more effective, strategic decisions.
How can you help prevent order fulfillment problems for your 3PL, warehouse or distribution business? Here are a few tips:
- Deploy an RF wireless network and use mobile computers in your warehouse
- Make sure to properly barcode all your inventory according to industry best practices. By using a warehouse management system and barcodes, your operations team and 3PL customers will have access to real time, accurate information about your inventory within the warehouse.
- Streamline your order picking process. Typically manual picking tends to be inefficient and more costly. Using mobility solutions and automation can help you to process orders more accurately, quickly and efficiently.
- Properly organize your warehouse so that inventory is in proper, optimal locations. Make sure inventory is organized so that barcodes can be seen and scanned readily.
- Utilize a warehouse management solution that can automate picking. Some warehouse management solutions rely on workflow to reduce or eliminate manual operations for greater accuracy and efficiency.
- Thoroughly train your warehouse workers to use the hardware and software technology. Provide multiple means of training (online, written, video, in person, etc.) and opportunities to learn and keep their skills up to date.
- Implement a web portal system to allow your 3PL customers to have access to information about their inventory and operation 24/7. This will reduce the need for customer service representatives and empower your customers to make more effective decisions and take action on their business whenever needed.
Tip #2: SKU Organization
As a matter of standard practice, housing different SKUs on a single shelf or bin location can be a costly practice. This wastes the time of warehouse workers in locating and picking desired items and can result in errors as well. Keep each SKU on a single shelf or bin for easy retrieval.
Another best practice involving SKUs is to place best selling goods in several locations of a storage area. This can make it more accessible for picking and help speed up processing time.
Keep top selling SKUs (high volume items) closer to the shipping area and in an easily accessible area within plain sight for easy picking and processing to save time.
Picking productivity can be improved by slotting the fastest moving SKUs in the waist-to-shoulder area. By doing this, you will improve order picker ergonomics, making it more comfortable for warehouse workers and help improve the speed and accuracy of picking efforts.
Tip #3 Minimize Unauthorized Traffic in the Warehouse
Unauthorized visitors to your warehouse can lead to burglary, theft and pilferage. Because warehouses house goods that are new in original packaging, inventory can prove to be easy targets for those you have not authorized to be in these locations. Issue your employees a badge, special shirt or some other identifier that clearly designates that they are authorized to be in your warehouse.
Here are some additional tips to help manage this problem:
- Separate shipping areas from receiving areas and try to provide physical barriers between the two areas.
- If possible, provide a fenced yard area to enclose shipping and receiving doors then implement a warehouse policy that prohibits personal vehicles from being driven into the shipping and receiving yard area. Lock the gate to the exterior yard area at all times when the warehouse is closed. Visitor and employee parking should be located away from this special yard area.
- Truck drivers should not be permitted to transit your warehouse unaccompanied. Designate a driver area or lounge that does not have to be accessed through the warehouse interior for waiting while trailers are being loaded or unloaded.
- Position the warehouse manager’s office within sight of the shipping and receiving bay doors for observation.
- Large warehouses and distribution centers should utilize manned security checkpoints at warehouse entrances.
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