How to improve warehouse management in 6 simple STEPS
Warehouse operations productivity hinges on 3 coordinated functions: your workforce, your customers and orders, and your inventory. Simple?
Not really. We understand that those three elements lead to multiple functions and interactions in omnichannel warehouse management, and can keep your management teams so busy that growth, optimisation, and improvement is next-to-impossible.
We’ve whittled down the essential functions that must be targeted for a warehouse management update and improvement, simplifying the key areas into 7 steps:
STEP 1: MEASURE YOUR PERFORMANCE
Knowing your business, your industry, your competitors, and the technologies that are prevalent allows you to start bench-marking your warehouse efficiency, productivity and profitability.
- Workforce Performance
If you haven’t already, establish and track KPIs within your warehouse, paying close attention to performance and efficiency in your workforce. Notice where the shortfalls occur and make notes on the cause and effect. Use this to work with your labour teams to improve their performance.
- Industry Growth and Trends
Whichever industry you are in, the landscape around customer service is changing. Take note of the technologies available, the changing methods of working in your suppliers and distributors, and how you can slot into those new processes for a seamless supply chain.
- Competitor Performance
Learn from your competitors. In terms of profitability and efficiency, there is always a tip or two that you can glean from bench-marking your performance against the industry standard and your direct competition.
- Competitive Costing
Motivate your procurement teams to keep aiming at competitive cost on your inbound supplies, but also continually work on how you can reduce your internal cost, and, in turn, your cost-to-customer. Assess these costs regularly and examine ways in which you can practically bring them down.
STEP 2: START TRACKING YOUR INBOUND FREIGHT
Tracking your inbound and outbound freight is critical. You already manage the deliveries and dispatch processes – now get more involved with your suppliers for better inventory accuracy and management.
Negotiate with your suppliers to agree on SLAs, delivery timelines, and compliance elements to ensure a more regular, reliable goods-delivery system. By doing this with your inbound freight, you will be able to do the same with your outbound, with better turnaround within your warehouse.
Increasing visibility and compliance to your delivery processes will also assist your client-service teams in responding to queries, delays, and stock problems more effectively and transparently.
STEP 3: SIMPLIFY YOUR PROCESSES
There are two sides to this effort: Simplification for your workforce, and simplification for your customer. The former leads the latter.
Work on improving the ease-of-movement within your warehouse, and the processes followed by your workforce. Simplify both of these contributors to improve efficiency, cost, and productivity.
- Your warehouse:
Your warehouse layout makes a huge impact on your efficiency and inventory, and simplifying it for flow, organisation, access, and reference purposes will reduce the amount of time your workforce spends “lost” within the maze.
- Your workforce:
Simplifying the processes that your workforce must follow, reducing the functions-on-functions that have been layered over time, and auditing your WMS / ERP usability will help you to save time on unnecessary actions.
STEP 4: ENCOURAGE GROWTH
If you want your business to grow, it is a good idea to start with your staff. While they are not incentivised, your potential for buy-in to any new or simplified process is unlikely.
Offer incentives to staff for improving systems and processes and encourage better performance with well-placed rewards systems.
Budget for training for your warehouse staff, so that you can nurture your top talent and develop warehouse managers who are competent, qualified, and innovative.
Your front-line managers’ abilities to efficiently manage all aspects of fulfillment radically affects your costs, worker morale, and the quality of customer order fulfillment. Consider their needs, understanding of your merchandise, and what training resources are available to you to achieve this.
STEP 5: UPGRADE YOUR SYSTEMS
With improved productivity in your warehouse, thanks to incentives, training, simplification, and consistent measurement and optimisation, you can start tackling your ERP system or Warehouse Management System. Updating, upgrading, or replacing the outdated systems and processes can bring immense improvements to your warehouse management.
- Consider SaaS for a smoother and more regular update to your systems
Software as a Service allows for regular updates, and more consistent interactions with new add-ons, changes, and improvements from your vendor’s side. Take advantage of these.
- Assess and capitalise on your integrations with your WMS
This includes software integrations, like your accounting package and your operations programs, and MHE integrations – your material handling devices. Ensure that your Warehouse Management System can integrate and accommodate the right MHE’s and warehousing functions for you.
- Use the right technology for your industry, merchandise, and business.
As discussed above, find the right software for your business.
Consider the demands on your business, your workforce, and your customer base, and ensure that the software you are running, whether and ERP, WMS, or combination of both, can ensure a smooth inbound to outbound service, and provide you with the insights you need to continue to improve your service offering.
STEP 6: DON’T STOP OPTIMISING
Once your measures and benchmarks are in place, it’s a good idea to refer to them on a regular basis, in order to analyse your performance vs industry, competitors, and new technologies.
Follow training, learnerships, and technology developments to keep your workforce ahead of the curve.
Engage with your customers for feedback on your service and improve it where necessary.