To keep a business process working efficiently in order to maximize profits is both a long-term battle and a day-to-day one. It is the holy grail of a lean and streamlined business model which we all strive for. Depending on the industry and niche we find ourselves in, there are many ways to achieve this and many variables to consider. Labour, staff, workloads, scheduling, third-party variables, constantly changing the global market, you name it.
These and many other variables need to be put in our equation in order to get the most efficient outcome possible. Luckily for us, there are relatively small things virtually any business can do and change in order to make big changes. The best course of actions is to start small and work our way up to more involving and complicated actions.
In the continuation of this article, we will go over some of the best changes we can make to our warehouse with the goal of it running as smooth as possible.
The layout is the most important aspect of a warehouse and will influence all future operations in it. Ideally, an optimal layout should be pre-planned and executed before anything else is put in place. An efficient, custom-tailored layout for our specific needs will make everything else work much more fluidly. What are some of the parameters we need to pay attention to?
Product and raw material should be stocked in a logical order. Logical order is such that enables us to retrieve and stock it easily, with minimal time, labour and energy invested. It often needs to be revised as it is not a set it and forget it type of deal. Times, markets and needs change and so should we. Typically, the most popular products should be placed in the most accessible areas so workers have an easier time stocking and retrieving them. Verticality is our best friend in this case.
Automated vertical storage and retrieval systems can be used to organize the most frequently requested products in such a way to be closest to the worker. What is the ideal layout for us? That is something each and everyone has to figure out for ourselves.
Much like our own domicile, it is always a good idea to declutter and maximize the space available to us. It should always be the first thought before we think about acquiring additional space, as it is a costly endeavour. Is there a way to more efficiently use the space we already have at hand, both vertical and horizontal?
Often, it is easier said than done. It does require people putting their heads together from different departments in order for everyone to be satisfied with the outcome. Not only will decluttering increase useable space and make work faster and more convenient for everyone, but also will impact safety. The less clutter there is, the less there is a likelihood for a hazard to occur. Which ties us in our next subject perfectly.
Safety is one of the most important factors in any company, especially one working with heavy machinery, vertical spaces and heavy produce. It is up to us to figure out ways to make our warehouses safer. When there are dozens of forklifts running around at the same time, it is paramount to eliminate all blind corners.
Traffic should be kept to the perimeter as much as possible which will mostly eliminate this threat to the safety and increase available working space. Still, no matter how safe our facility is, vigilance should always be promoted as basically all accidents tend to happen due to human error.
Update and Upgrade
Modern warehouses rely on a wide array of technologies to help with work in terms of speed, safety and efficiency. Upgrading stationary workstations with ones to a mobile cart with power, upgrading forklifts are just some of the examples on how to stay up to date. There are plenty of used forklifts for sale to make these upgrades easy on our finances.
Employees can bring their computers, printers and scanners with them through our warehouse without double-backing. Some other examples include, but are not limited to: conveyor belts, bar-code readers and database systems and voice-activated technologies.
Aside from updating our equipment and procedures, it is also important to maintain them as it is a vital component in warehouse productivity. As we have stated previously, we live in a time where we have many technologically-advanced tools that are readily available for us to use.
Over the decades, we have become basically completely reliant on these tools which makes us vulnerable if it temporarily does not work. A faulty piece of equipment can hinder our working schedule and thus, affect the process further down the line. The way we combat this is by training employees to maintain and care for their equipment.
Routine checks are also a part of maintenance in order to make sure that the equipment is operational. Routine, specialized inspections and are important for the more intricate equipment that relies on professional personnel for maintenance.
Warehouse Management Systems (WMS)
As our warehouse gets filled up with products, people and tools, it can get convoluted at times. That means we lose efficiency. A warehouse management system (or warehouse control system) can help us track and optimize our logistics and put the most popular products closer to receiving areas. It serves the common purpose of reducing travel time, chokepoints and increases efficiency overall.
In the world of doing business, surprises are usually not positive and no one likes them. We need to do our best in order to anticipate all aspects of our business operations. Warehouse labour needs can change drastically over time as the market fluctuates. Before the need for additional staff becomes urgent, we should have already made the necessary preparations to bring in new people.
Much in the same way, if we happen to be overstaffed, we need to perform cuts as far in advance as possible. Temporary associates should be treated with the same courtesy and respect as our full-time staff. This way we ensure that they are more likely to return in the future if the times dictate that there is a need for additional staff.
Employee comfort is the last, but not the least important aspect that we are going to cover here. The more people feel like they are a part of something greater, the more content they will be in being there. Looking forward to going to work can be one of the best experiences in life and it is up to us to ensure that as much as possible. Visual and audio comfort first comes to mind.
Allowing employees to personalize their workspace to an extent will make them feel more at home. The environment will appear more natural to everyone. Warehouses can get very noisy so some kind of music to at least partially drown out the noise can be a good idea. On the other hand, it can be a dangerous situation for employees to get too comfortable, especially in a warehouse.
People always need to be vigilant and on alert when it comes to a combination of heavy machinery and a turbulent environment.
Finally, feedback is always welcome. Listening to employees and associated that are always hands-on in a warehouse will provide some of the best ideas on how to improve the working experience for everyone. They are the bread and butter of any warehouse and they best understand where the bottlenecks and various inefficiencies are. Together, we can come up with and implement the best productivity-enhancing changes and policies that will keep our warehouse lean and streamlined.
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