When running a warehouse, there isn’t any room for waste.
By waste, we don’t mean what ends up in your dumpsters or trash shoots. In warehousing, waste refers to outdated practices, old tools or inefficient processes holding your facility back from its full potential.
Waste in warehouses not only leads to lost time but lost money and, most likely, employee burnout.
To ensure your warehouse is running like a well-oiled machine, your team should look to see if there are any places you’re falling behind. Today, we’re looking at the key areas where your warehouse is dealing with excess waste (and how to tackle it).
Sticking to Paper Processes
Transitioning from paper to digital processes is warehousing’s latest trend. Allowing warehouses to streamline operations and organize their assets, digital software like warehouse management systems (WMS) have been an invaluable tool for facilities across all industries.
A WMS is a platform that helps you manage your warehouse operations digitally, all in one place. These systems allow you to centralize all the aspects and processes of your warehouse, such as overall inventory, product picking and delivery updates.
With a WMS, you’re able to see how your warehouse is functioning as a whole, which allows you to make better, data-driven decisions about your process. Plus, it goes without saying that a WMS eliminates time wasted on manual paper processes.
But, say you’ve moved to a digital process, but you’re using multiple management systems for different jobs. Having more than one WMS essentially defeats the purpose of moving to an online solution. You’re still wasting time communicating and transferring information from one platform to another. We suggest investing a singular WMS that meets all your needs.
Complacent Picking Processes
The saying goes, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” But what if your picking process is broken, and you’ve just become accustomed to working around it?
Enabling an inefficient picking process isn’t doing your warehouse any favors, even if it’s just the way things have always been done. By assessing your current picking strategy and paths, you can identify the steps or parts that are no longer working. Optimizing that process will help reduce waste, increase productivity and make it easier for your employees to do their jobs.
When reviewing your warehouse’s picking process, your first step is to make sure your paths are linear. Are these paths leading your picking employees to their destination (packing, shipping, etc.) in the most efficient way possible?
If you’re not currently using a defined picking method, we suggest looking into strategies like wave picking, batch picking or zone picking, which can give you a foundation for building a new system.
But let’s say you’re using a strategy that works for your warehouse and all your paths are perfect. There could still be wasteful areas of your picking process, such as:
- Not putting your most popular items in easily accessible places. Your fast-moving products should be close to your picking and packing stations to make things easier for your employees.
- Bottlenecks from picking to packing. Sure, your picking process might be flawless. But if what your picking team is handing off to the packing team requires additional organization, time is still being wasted. Make sure there’s also a smooth transition from picking to packing.
- Too little space. If you’re not giving your picking team enough room to work within, you’re doing them a disservice and making their jobs harder. Ensure that your team has adequate working space.
Lack of Inventory Control
Whether you’re running out of popular products or finding excess inventory on your hands, you’ve got an inventory issue.
WMS will often include software to help you with inventory control. Inventory control programs give you a complete look at your warehouse’s current stock, telling you which items you have enough of or need to be re-ordered.
With inventory control programs, you can increase the accuracy of your orders, store products more efficiently, cut redundant costs on purchases of in-stock items and help your employees find products quickly and efficiently. Plus, you can use this information to plan for events like holiday shopping booms.
Inefficient Employee Allocation
Are you placing your employees mindfully throughout your warehouse?
Having too many cooks in the kitchen is an easy time waster. By having a concentrated number of employees in one area, such as your picking area, you’ll inevitably have team members stepping on each other – figuratively and potentially literally! On the other hand, having too many employees for one job can lead to some of your team standing around when they could be of use in other areas of your warehouse.
As you review your warehouse’s overall process, note how many people are actually necessary to complete your facility’s task and whether there’s a surplus or shortage of available hands. Allocate your employees accordingly using this information.
Another question to consider: how do you choose where to place your employees? Sure, sometimes employees need to be placed in areas having temporary problems or stresses. But overall, we suggest taking note of an individual employee’s qualifications – their background, strengths, and professional experience – when placing them.
Streamline Your Warehouse
Wasted time in your warehouse leads to wasting money and resources. By taking time to assess your processes, you can boost your facility’s productivity and bottom line.
Another helpful way to save time in your warehouse’s process is by investing in industrial manipulators. These material movers are a handy way to make transporting your products easier (and safer!) Industrial manipulators can reduce both the time and the number of people needed to move your inventory.
Industrial manipulators are frequently used when:
- A product is too heavy for a person to move manually
- A product must be moved to a location that is not easily or quickly accessible for a person to reach, like a very tall shelf
- A person will be put at risk for injury if they move a product manually
- A person will quickly fatigue from moving products manually
- A high volume of product must be moved in a timely fashion
If you’re ready to take the first step in reducing transportation waste in your facility, contact us today. Our team of experts is prepared to help find the best solution for your warehouse.