Warehouse management is not a simple task, and warehouse managers face difficult challenges. Even when orders are low, standard operations continue to grow with each passing day. Part of this derives from the expansion of e-commerce into new and emerging markets. Since consumers have the ability to shop online 24 hours/day and 7 days/week, the challenges of warehouse management do not stop when the brick-and-mortar stores lock their doors for the day. To reduce delays and maintain competitive advantages, retailers and manufacturers, as well as warehouse managers, must learn how to identify common and unique challenges and overcome them by applying the key best practices to each issue.
The Problem: Identifying the Contributing Factors of Challenges of Warehouse Management is Difficult
Warehouse managers face many challenges, but in an omnichannel-driven world they disappear when warehouse managers understand what they are and how to avoid their damaging effects. While some challenges focus on space utilization, the leading challenges can be difficult to identify, especially when using manual or outdated systems and processes. Furthermore, identifying the challenges of warehouse management depends on the unique circumstances and level of activity for each facility. Due to these variables, it is best to plan for five broad challenges of warehouse management in an omnichannel world.
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The Solution: Knowing the Top Challenges Makes Overcoming Them Possible
The top challenges of warehouse management revolve around the need to serve more customers, move more product, and ensure greater accuracy in all activities. As explained by Decision Point Systems, some of the primary challenges include:
- Multiple locations require more workers, systems, and processes.
- Shorter product life cycles make planning for demand fluctuations troublesome.
- Warehouses serve both retailers and customers directly, resulting in smaller pick tickets and increased opportunities for error.
- Redundant processes for online, brick-and-mortar, and split shipments result in lost opportunities for increasing revenue and increased risk of reducing order accuracy.
- Poor space utilization or slotting processes, reports Tim Garcia via Manufacturing Business Technology, requiring additional time to complete pick tickets and increasing safety risks to workers, especially when involving items weighing more than 50 pounds.
The Reward: How to Turn Challenges of Warehouse Management Into Opportunities
Trying to pin down a specific set of actions to overcome challenges in warehouse management would be impractical. Instead of focusing on process-level improvements, warehouse managers should follow these best practices:
- Implement an order and warehouse management system that constantly stays updated, enables scalability, and can be modified only if absolutely necessary.
- Develop agile processes. Agility allows for a degree of error and responsiveness in making warehouse management decisions, but it is important to return to business rules and standardized processes as soon as possible. Of course, if a change results in greater efficiency and productivity, changing business rules may be a good idea.
- Bring systems together. Disparate systems mean disparate visibility into inventory, but bringing systems together enhances productivity and reduces the need to manage multiple sites through multiple systems.
Prepare for Challenges in Omnichannel to Reduce Their Likelihood of Becoming Severe Setbacks
The challenges in warehouse management can be overwhelming even to the most experienced supply chain leaders. Stop trying to manage multiple warehouses from multiple systems, and plan for challenges. Preparation will enable your organization to grow and survive in the digital age.