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6 warehousing best practices for your supply chain

Written by William Sudding
Created: 02 January 2019

Woman in warehouse with hard hat

Your warehouse is the heart of your business. When it’s operating at peak productivity levels, it reduces costs, increases profits and keeps your customers delighted. Here are six things you can do to achieve operational excellence in your supply chain.

 

As we mentioned in our post, Top warehouse trends to look out for in the Middle East and Africa in 2019, optimising your warehouse processes is imperative to combat the rising cost of warehouse operations (due to things like fuel hikes and VAT increases).

 

The best way to achieve operational excellence in your supply chain, is to benchmark your warehouse against global industry leaders. Implementing some of the following best practices will help you streamline your operations.

 

1. Invest in the right technology

 

Nothing hinders efficiency as much as a hodge-podge of systems which don’t integrate well and require a lot of manual administration to work around this. In order for your warehouse to run smoothly, you need to have real-time access to accurate data that allows you to monitor the health of your operations. Although the initial cost of investing in a warehouse management system (WMS) may give you heart palpitations, it will quickly pay for itself in the form of increased productivity, efficiency, inventory control and customer satisfaction.

 

Aside from your WMS, there are other technologies which can help you automate tasks in your warehouse for greater productivity. Two areas that can provide quick-wins when it comes to efficiency are pick speed and pick accuracy. Using technologies such as radio frequency, pick-to-voice (PTV)and pick-to-light (PTL) are all options to help you boost pick productivity.

 

Consider equipping your team with mobile apps and devices such as tablets, to help them get more done on the move. This is especially true for managerial staff who are traditionally desk-bound as they need to be able to access your WMS. By choosing a WMS which offers mobile capabilities, warehouse managers can spend more time on the floor with your staff, where they are needed.

2. Make sure you have the right people on your team

 

Having a strong team of skilled staff is a crucial component to running a successful warehouse. You need to not only know that they can do the job (and do it well), but that they are passionate and trustworthy as well. Warehouse theft and missing stock can have a huge impact on your bottom line.

3. Make sure your team are fully trained

As we mentioned above, it’s important to work with a team of passionate and skilled employees. Part of this passion should extend to ongoing learning. It’s one thing to have the latest and greatest technology in your warehouse, but that’s only really useful if your staff know how to use it properly. Very often, businesses invest in expensive systems without ensuring that their team receives sufficient training to get the most out of the technology. Without staff buy-in and a robust training programme, you’ll end up with an expensive white elephant in your warehouse.

 

“All employees should know how the system works and how they personally relate to the new process. Training should be readily and broadly available to encourage the new system’s acceptance and use within the company,” writes 24x7 Magazine.


Training should therefore be prioritised in your warehouse, especially when introducing new team members or new technologies.

4. Optimise your warehouse layout

The flow of your warehouse should be conducive to safety, speed and accuracy. To achieve this, you’ll need to evaluate your pick paths and processes to ensure that any obstacles are removed. This includes maximising the use of vertical space. Many businesses think they need to move to larger premises because they’ve run out of floor space, however this is usually due to poor warehouse layout. So, wherever you can, make use of shelving to preserve precious floor space (which is expensive).

 

It’s recommended to place fast moving stock close to the front of your warehouse where it can be shipped easily. You can also make use of slotting optimisation and golden zoning (storing fast moving items at chest height to avoid pickers bending or reaching for stock).

 

Read our article, Why you should optimise your warehouse layout (and how to do this), for more tips on how to maximise efficiency using a smart warehouse design.

 

5. Avoid storing more than one SKU in a single location

 

A mixed location of SKUs costs your pickers time as they need to sift through the location to find the right item. Although it may seem like a space-efficient storage option, mixing SKUs is a big no-no. “Not only does this reduce accuracy, it also slows the operator down by as much as 15+ seconds per pick transaction,” writes SupplyChain 24/7.

6. Report on your warehouse performance regularly

Measuring the productivity of your warehouse on an ongoing basis is critical if you want to spot bleeding points before they become too much of a problem. Your WMS reports will help you identify weak points, allowing you to constantly optimise and improve your performance.Read our article, What to measure in your warehouse, for a list of the key metrics you should be tracking on a weekly basis.


 

By following these six best practices in your warehouse, you’ll be well on your way to running a world-class operation. It’s not hard to streamline your supply chain when you have the right knowledge and tools at your disposal.

 

We put together a practical guide to help you optimise your warehouse processes. Download the guide to access various checklists and expert tips which you can easily action in your business.

 

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