As part of this ongoing series in week 4 we will introduce a variety of new inventory management tips to help optimize your warehouse or distribution center. Here we will discuss how utilizing the experience of both senior staff and regular operational evaluations can help identify bottlenecks, unnecessary manual workarounds and opportunities for improvement. We will also share some supply chain industry best practices for reducing human error – both people and technology focused.
Tip #12: Leverage the Experience of Your Senior Staff
Efficiency is critical in the warehouse. When trying to find solutions to ways that processes can be improved or streamlined, welcome the participation of your senior staff. Although it may seem like a waste of time, having a few members of your leadership teams walk the warehouse floor along with senior level employees can provide new insight and ideas. Working together in this way can help to improve communication between the various groups. Collaborating on ways to reduce bottlenecks, duplicated processes, resource issues, and timesaving strategies can produce long term savings for your warehouse.
Tip #13: Look at Your Warehouse with Fresh Eyes
Warehouse operations often change based on customer needs. Every few months, take a fresh look at your warehouse as the organization of your facility may need to be changed. Evaluate your storage and inventory processes periodically to ensure that your operations remain the most efficient and productive.
Has your product mix changed? Some products are seasonal and may become obsolete periodically whereas other products suddenly are in high demand. Examine space allocation and make organizational changes to coincide with supply and demand.
Tip #14: Reducing Human Error in the Warehouse
Inevitably, humans performing repetitive manual tasks leads to errors. Mistakes can be made at any or several points in operational processes. Issues like illegible handwriting, miskeying data, or packing and delivering the wrong product are all too common and impact bottom line profitability.
How can you minimize human error in warehouse operations? Here are a few ways to take action:
Establish proper Standard Operating Procedures for your warehouse. Document each process thoroughly and incorporate graphics such as diagrams, photos and videos. Thoroughly train all new warehouse workers and hold refresher training at regular intervals for established workers.
Use an inventory management or warehouse management solution that provides a comprehensive, real time accurate view on inventory
Use mobile computing devices to scan barcodes so that real time data is immediately and automatically available and accessible within a WMS solution
Train, train, train your workforce. Positive reinforcement and rewards for low errors rates, higher order fulfillment rates and other KPIs send a strong motivational message to workers. Encourage warehouse workers to aid in reducing error and to spot mistakes so that problems can be eliminated and workers re-trained.
Consider using passive RFID in the warehouse. Using RFID on pallets along with RFID portals positioned in strategic well-defined areas can help warehouse workers have better knowledge of where inventory is so that they do not have to search larger areas for misplaced goods.
Rely on a WMS solution that incorporates workflow into its system. This will automate processes so that manual, error-prone operations can be reduced.
Make sure your WMS integrates with your ERP in real time to ensure that inventory numbers are up to date and accurate.
Establish procedures for any time a product is moved from one location to another. Clearly communicate this to your workforce so that everyone knows the location for each item.
Make sure your workforce is well trained and can adequately use your inventory management or WMS as well as handheld computers.
Make sure that your technology is up to date and that you have spare essentials such as batteries, charging cords, etc. for maximum uptime.
Clearly label and provide signage throughout your warehouse to direct workers and help them find inventory quickly and easily.