How to improve Warehouse Efficiency: 4 areas for improvement.
Warehouse efficiency can be improved in a number of ways, from small changes to huge changes. In this article we look ahead to 2021 and give an overview of ways that your warehouse’s efficiency can be improved in the new year. If you have any suggestions for further tips please leave them in the comments.
Efficiency improvement area #1: Warehouse Layout & Inventory
The warehouse layout is the real key to unlocking your warehouse’s maximum potential.
The space between stocks should be as small as possible whilst still allowing easy access. The stock that sells in July is likely to be different to the stock sold in December. Stock should be organised according to seasonal use for this reason. Top selling and high demand products should be located closer to the packing stations. Match items that are frequently bought together and store them close to each other to save time on order picking.
Ensure all items are clearly visible to make it easier for pickers to locate items. Consider using a pick to light system to quickly guide pickers to the correct areas of the warehouse.
Store heavier items on lower shelves for safe and also easy access. Similarly large and bulky items should have a designated storage area.
Use custom racking
Rather than expand the floor space of your warehouse, consider making better use of vertical space. Use custom built racking where possible to maximise every inch of space, and of course, go high. Tall and narrow racking that is made to measure for your space allows for optimum storage for your facility. Taller racking and storage units allow for more items to be stored in the existing space with no need to increase the warehouse footprint. One important note here, make sure the racking is robust enough for use as tall storage.
On the subject of improving storage, try to avoid storing smaller items on pallet racks. These items can be difficult to access and easy to lose. Standardized bins, roller racking, FIFO storage racks and partitions can help keep your storage in order.
Adopt a lean inventory
A lean inventory is an excellent way of saving floor space. Removing redundant items and reducing selected stocks to frequent delivery in smaller batches will free up further space. This allows for improvement of flow in the warehouse environment and will save time on picking. Work with vendors to guarantee on-time delivery of the stocks you have trimmed down on to make sure you have a small amount of stock in constant rotation.
Be flexible with new technology
Warehouse efficiency is important as the industry is fast paced and being inflexible does not work to your favour. New technologies and practices are developed on a regular basis and if you aren’t adopting these, just remember your competitors are. Always look to see if new technology or software can enhance and areas of your warehouse that seem to be lagging behind. Don’t stay set in your ways relying on what worked until you find it no longer works. Keep your eyes and ears open to new ideas, and don’t be afraid to implement emerging technology to test new ways of doing things.
Efficiency improvement area #2: Invest in your Staff
Boost staff engagement
Your staff understand the need for warehouse efficiency and the best processes better than anyone else. Holding regular meetings to ask for their opinions and suggestions shows that you consider them to be invaluable to the business. Involve them in decision making where it effects their day to day activities. Reward engagement with activities such as events and competitions to improve the working environment. Staff who are happier and more emotionally invested in the business will work harder.
Ensure staff safety
Workplace injury can be costly to employers, so providing the correct equipment to reduce the risk of accidents and health problems is beneficial.
The use of ergonomic desks, benches, and workstations can greatly reduce the occurrence of musculoskeletal disorders. Height adjustable workbenches could be considered for workstations with multiple users. This allows for each user to have the correct working height and lessen any over stretching or leaning. One of the leading causes of workplace absence is back and joint pain from day to day working activities or unsafe lifting activities. Therefore lifting equipment should also be provided in the form of trolleys, carts, fork lift trucks, or even roller tables and conveyor systems.
Workstations should also be suited to the task in which they are used with materials and equipment within easy reach. A bespoke built workstation makes this easy, with fully customisable shelves, storage, lighting, power, and IT integration all taken care of. A conveyor workstation also offers these features.
Efficiency improvement area #3: Organization
How do I keep my warehouse organized?
An organised warehouse is a happy warehouse, and a real boost for warehouse efficiency use the 5s method to keep on top of organisation.
The 5s method originated in Japan, it’s a methodology used to organise work areas to improve performance. It has been adopted in many manufacturing, lean manufacturing and industrial environments. The 5 key points are:
- Sort – Only necessary tools and items for completing tasks should be in the working area. To keep the work area clear of unwanted clutter, all other things should be moved.
- Set in order – Organise all items giving them designated places. These places should be accessible and make sense for their uses. The use of shadow boards could be helpful to ensure items are in correct places and nothing is missing.
- Shine – Keeping the working area clean and organised. This also includes machine maintenance, sweeping floors, and wiping down surfaces. By keeping on top of cleaning, the work space is always ready for use.
- Standardize – Make rules for tasks, organisation, cleaning, and maintenance. Each process will run smoothly when adhering to these standards. For example, cleaning and maintenance schedules will ensure these tasks are completed on a regular basis.
- Sustain – Continue with new practices, keeping track with audits and logs. All employees should participate in all of the 5 S’s and be rigorous in following the methods in place.
Efficiency improvement area #4: Be Energy Efficient
Save money on utilities
Consider saving money on utilities like water & power. Energy reducing methods such as automatic lighting could potentially save a considerable amount of money. Changing old lightbulbs to more energy efficient versions is also a simple yet effective energy saver. Likewise, installing solar panels where possible will make considerable energy cost savings. If possible getting more natural light into the warehouse will not only save money but boost employee health and morale.
Making sure your buildings are sufficiently insulated can save energy and improve the overall warehouse environment. Water saving is also achievable through the use of hands free faucets and low flow toilets.
By saving energy & water, you’re a few steps closer to being green. This is not only a cost saving benefit but also being environmentally conscious is good for your business image. It’s really a win-win scenario. Other ways to save money whilst also being eco-friendly fall into the reduce, reuse and recycle categories.
Reduce – Reduce the use of materials across the warehouse and find suitable replacements. Changing the amount packaging used, or changing from a paper system to an electronic one where possible. Ideally your warehouse operation will have absolute minimal waste.
Reuse – Reuse equipment wherever possible. Consider purchasing used equipment.
Recycle – Recycle as much as possible. Cardboard, paper and plastic are easily recyclable, however consider things like batteries, chemicals and oils. Each of these should be disposed of safely and if possible also recycled.