Demand on distribution centers and warehouses are greater than ever, and promises of more reshoring around the country indicate the strain will only grow tighter. Rather than building new facilities, consider using these tips to optimize your existing facility to achieve higher thruput.
1. Analyze Current Processes.
A company cannot increase operational efficiency of their warehouses without knowing where current resources are being used. Begin the process of maximizing thruput and warehouse optimization by analyzing all processes and operations throughout your facility, explains Norman Saenz Jr. of Distribution Center Management.
2. Create an “Internal Warehouse.”
Grouping together products that tend to be ordered simultaneously can dramatically reduce overall picking times, reports Shelf Plus. This internal warehouse also helps to avoid bottlenecks and promotes order accuracy during fulfillment.
3. Evaluate Use of Storage Equipment.
Occasionally, warehouse managers can forget about the value of equipment that is rarely used or outdated. Evaluate the frequency of use and benefits of all warehouse equipment. If it is not being used regularly, consider removing it from the facility.
4. Slot Most Ordered Products in Picking Areas.
The fastest-moving products should be accessible in picking areas or zones. This can even include placing these products in the packaging area to make them readily available.
5. Limit Shipping Carton Options.
Although variety is great, minimizing the carton options help to avoid unnecessary packaging. Considering recent pushes toward dimensional pricing models (DIM pricing), fewer carton options may lead to lower overall shipping costs for end users.
6. Automate Anything That Can Be Automated.
Modern technology can be automated many of the mundane tasks in your facility, including picking, packaging and loading of products, asserts Meena Veilumuthu. Implement systems to automate anything that does not require human action to be successful
7. Give Pickers an Incentive.
Incentive programs are designed to promote a strong work ethic and sense of accomplishment among employees. Incentives encourage employees to double-check their work and adhere to policies and practices in your facility.
8. Narrow the Aisles.
If large machines are not going down the aisles, there is no reason to have wide aisles. Narrow aisles to accommodate “two-lane” picking traffic.
9. Consolidate Like Products.
Consumers can be fickle. If your warehouse stores dozens of like products, such as different colored armbands, consolidate like products into the same slots. Just make sure the “differing” aspects can be readily identified without opening the package.
10. Improve Training.
An inefficient warehouse may reflect poorly trained employees. Even seasoned employees pick up bad habits with time, so improve your training to reflect the latest technology and processes deployed in your organization. Furthermore, make training sessions interactive and fun by avoiding lengthy, classroom-based instruction.
11. Increase Motion-Activated Lighting.
Warehouse lighting is difficult, and the utility costs can easily rise into the thousands of dollars. Implement motion-activated lighting systems within racks to help pickers and staff members see what they are reaching for more easily. This will also help improve order accuracy.
12. Integrate WMS With Other Systems.
Historically warehouse management systems (WMSs) have been solely used in a specific facility. However, new technology has emerged that allows easy integration of WMS with other legacy or essential systems, such as a comprehensive transportation management system (TMS).
13. Use Automated Storage and Retrieval.
Robotics are becoming essential to automating the picking process. Obtain a quote for robotic pickers, and find out if your competitors already have similar systems.
14. Take Advantage of Overhead Space.
Overhead space can be used more efficiently than adding to the floor space of your distribution centers. Some contractors may be able to literally raise the roof of your facility at a lower cost than adding horizontally to your center.
15. Re-Slot Distribution Centers.
Re-slotting distribution centers and subsequent storage areas in your supply chain can help you determine how many products your facility needs to store. In addition, it can help you reduce shelf time for products as well.
16. Profile Orders.
Maximizing thruput can also benefit from profiling orders. For example, orders from district A tend to include products B, C and D. Group like orders together to optimize pick tickets.
17. Get Advice From Warehouse Workers.
Workers in distribution centers or warehouses interact with one another and your technology daily. They may have insight into how processes or design can be changed to improve efficiency.
18. Maintain Flexibility.
Rigidity leads to breaks in the flow of products. While some rigidity is necessary, such as adhering to compliance statutes, your organization must be flexible to adjust to changes in consumer and business-to-business demands.
19. Avoid Overcrowding.
A crowded warehouse is confusing. Avoid overcrowding slots, picking areas and packaging zones. This will help keep products flowing.
20. Reduce Number of Touch Points.
More touch points equate to greater chance for errors. Aim for as few touch points as possible by implementing order tracking and automation systems.
21. Establish “Picking Routes.”
Pickers should have a plan for pulling all the items in an order before beginning a pick ticket. In addition, consider implementing pick-to-carton methods.
22. Keep Some Open Space.
New products come along every day. Make sure you retain at least 10 percent of your total space for tomorrow’s new products.
23. Stagger Staff Schedules.
Staff schedules should start at different times. This helps to prevent confusion and “traffic jams” during the picking process.
Every redesign or new solution implemented requires follow-up. Evaluate how the new thruput stacks up against previous operations.
You can create more space in your warehouse without construction if you implement these 24 tips today.