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10 Ideas for More Efficient & Productive Warehouse Operations

warehouse operations

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, tripping, falling, and slipping account for the majority of “general industry accidents.”  In fact, statistics show slip and fall accidents make up 15% of all accidental deaths, 25% of all injury claims and – shockingly – 95 million lost work days each year.

It goes without saying that warehouses need to find ways to prioritize workplace safety for the health and productivity of the workforce.  But what are some ways organizations can streamline operations for improved results overall?

The following is our top 10 list of ways warehouses can drive more efficient and productive warehouse operations:

Consider Automation

Boston Consulting Group research shows 1.2 million robots are expected to be deployed across manufacturing facilities in the U.S. by the year 2025.  Why?  Not only can robotic automation help manufacturers achieve greater warehouse productivity, but it can also drive significant cost savings as compared to employing workers.

Optimize Labor Productivity

Whether through automation, employee incentives, or any other means, optimizing labor productivity should be the cornerstone of any warehouse improvement effort.  Since labor tends to be the largest cost factor in warehousing and order picking operations, it’s critical for organizations to understand production rates.

Maximize Vertical Space

On the production floor, where space can be limited, it’s important to take advantage of every inch of available space (floor to ceiling).  As noted in an Occupational Health & Safety article, solutions such as pallet racking can lead to safer working conditions as well as increased efficiency in the warehouse.  Pallet racking, the most common way of storing pallet loads in the world, is an easy-to-use storage solution; it’s used in the vast majority of warehouses, manufacturing facilities, commercial warehouse operations, and even retail stores.

Create Organized Workstations

The Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) reports that musculoskeletal disorders (carpal tunnel syndrome, tendinitis, muscle strains, lower back injuries, etc.) are one of the leading causes of workplace injuries and illnesses.  To reduce the risk of such injuries in repetitive, manual tasks, it’s important to design workstations according to the specific task and worker (for example, ensuring work surface height is the height of the conveyor or roller from floor level).  Doing so increases ergonomic benefits and drives greater efficiency and productivity in everyday work.

Analyze Picking Methodology

As with ergonomic considerations (i.e., designing the workstation to suit the particular work being done), it’s also important to determine whether the current picking methodology appropriately suits the organization.  Making the right order picking choices directly impacts supply chain productivity, so it’s not something to be taken lightly.

Implement Lean Manufacturing

Most manufacturing facilities are trending toward 5S/lean manufacturing as part of their efforts to improve manufacturing processes, enabling quicker, more efficient production and lowering overall costs.  According to the EPA, “lean production techniques often create a culture of continuous improvement, employee empowerment, and waste minimization [in addition to] driving rapid, continual improvement in cost, quality, service, and delivery.”

Take Advantage of Technology Options

With the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) becoming increasingly pervasive in the manufacturing sector, the challenge then becomes: How can organizations leverage these technological innovations to stay one step ahead of the competition?  Accenture predicts the value created by the IIoT could reach as high as $15 trillion by 2030, paving the way for more efficient, productive, and intelligent industrial warehouse operations.

Faster Part & Tool Retrieval

Faster part and tool retrieval is a key component of achieving greater organization and efficiency in the fulfillment process.  Automated storage and retrieval systems can, for example, increase picking accuracy while yielding better inventory control.  Additional benefits to these types of systems include better operator safety, increased labor productivity, and improved floor space utilization.

Evaluate Storage Equipment

One of the most important parts of evaluating industrial storage equipment is factoring in how storage systems can/will evolve with a facility’s needs over time.  Performing a thorough assessment of current and future warehouse storage needs can improve storage density and picker productivity and drive significant cost savings over the long term.

Focus on Continuous Process Improvement

When all is said and done, perhaps the best way to drive productivity and efficiency in the warehouse is to keep an eye on continuous process improvement.  Successful manufacturers don’t just focus on short-term goals; they set objectives and accountability for improvement, review their progress, and start over – time and time again.

Final Thoughts

Any warehouse with an eye toward process improvement should be evaluating existing warehouse operations and looking for ways to drive increased efficiency – constantly.  The above list represents our top 10 places to start.  What would be on your checklist for ways to streamline warehouse operations and achieve better results?

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Jennie Dannecker

Jennie Dannecker

Marketing Coordinator at Stanley Vidmar
Jennie Dannecker serves as Marketing Coordinator for Stanley Vidmar, where she has also held roles such as Government Marketing Manager and others since 2003.
Jennie Dannecker
Jennie Dannecker
Jennie Dannecker

Latest posts by Jennie Dannecker (see all)

  • Optimise administrative processes. Wms designed from an accountant’s perspective are great for balancing the books however they often add a burden of administration to the warehouse staff. Look at the mobile scanners being used. Scratched screens are a sign of a poorly designed mobile user interface causing the operator to spend time touching the screen which means that the software is not intuitive and has not been designed with warehouse processes in mind.

  • Moses

    I am grateful for the information.
    Being in warehousing operations, i have understood so much that is going to improve my operations grately.

    Moses Muhairwe
    Kampala – Uganda

  • Jorge Costa

    Listen to your staff: no matter how focused and comitted you are in evolving your procedures, your warehouse workforce are the ones actually doing the job and evidently they can provide a more than valid insight about potential improvements, but also about what’s in their way, preventing them from doing a better job.
    Besides, and perhaps most importantly, if they don’t feel part of the change, you will not be able to change.

    • So true, Jorge! Don’t lead from the pulpit, lead from the floor!

  • Thanks for the piece,very educative

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