What is Warehouse Management?

Running a warehouse is not as simple as having a place to keep stock. Warehouse management is vital to ensuring you maximize profits in your business. It involves managing your facility, stock, technology and employees so that things run smoothly, and more importantly, profitably.

Facility Management

Housekeeping is not just for homes. The environment in your warehouse reflects your expectations from vendors and workers. A sloppy warehouse in disrepair shows the business does not really care how efficiently or safely the work is done. As a result, workers cut corners and do as little as possible to walk away with a paycheck. After all, if the person with the greatest stake in the business does not care, why should they?

Even older warehouses can be kept in good working order and neatened up. You should have workers responsible for cleaning up at shift changes and be certain the building is in sound working condition. Visual reminders to employees about cleanliness and safety help to show them you care about running a safe and efficient operation. Experienced businessmen will tell you that no sloppy warehouse has efficient and motivated workers and no bright, clean operation tolerates sloppy workers.

Slotting Optimization

warehouse-management

The places you choose to store stock within the warehouse makes a huge different in picking time, accuracy and safety. By creating a picking or slotting profile in your warehouse, you can ensure efficient operations and give your business the ability to easy adapt and change to market trends in ordering.  If your slots are too small, you will be replacing stock more frequently than necessary. Too large, and you will waste space and making your workers travel farther to pick orders.

When planning your picking profile, first consider the items that come in and out of your warehouse the fastest. Ensure you have allocated slots for these items that make receiving, picking and shipping faster. Obviously, the slots must be set up in a way that maximizes your ability to store and move such items in relation to their size and weight. They should be easy to access with all necessary worker safety gear nearby.

When initiated from the beginning, slotting helps your business to evolve as it grows. You can set up the appropriate hardware and shelving in advance. Otherwise, you may need to set aside time to reorganize your warehouse and invest in new storage solutions. Clearly, this is not the best option for your business, so get it right from the beginning if at all possible.

There is software available that uses the science of product slotting to help you get the most from your warehouse space. By using the measurements of a product and its order frequency, you can calculate the best locations in your warehouse. The software calculates and compares storage combinations until you come up with the optimal layout for your warehouse space. You can then change input in comparison with market trends to reconfigure as necessary.

Taking Advantage of Technology

In the old days, warehouses were run through individual order and picking slips that were sorted by hand. One worker would highlight items and makes notes for the picker, which would then be used to locate and pack orders. This method took an enormous amount of energy and employee resources, creating a bottle neck in operations.

The modern warehouse uses various technologies for optimizing efficiency. This can be as simple as ensuring a computerized picking system or as complicated as using robotic means to pick orders. Many companies now use voice systems to direct warehouse floor employees in all activities including equipment checks and order picking.

Technology benefits the warehouse and the entire business by improving speed and accuracy. Voice technology is the latest trend in warehouse management, focused on keeping workers safe and productive. Voice technology allows order pickers to work hands free. Instead of holding a piece of paper in one hand and driving a fork lift with the other, workers are able to keep both eyes on the warehouse floor, dramatically reducing warehouse traffic accidents.

Some warehouses have doubled efficiency by using this technology. Not only does this technology direct employee activities, it tracks inventory, eliminating the need for barcodes and scanning. Not only are the workers more productive, they are happier, resulting in a 50% reduction in turnover. In the future, voice technology will direct stowage and replenishment as well. It may even be used in cycle counting, receiving and yard management.

Labor Management

To keep things running smoothly, you must have the right employees for the job. An effective warehouse supervisor is needed to coordinate receiving, stowage, picking and shipping. There is a fine line to walk in balancing speed and efficiency with worker safety. Injuries damage morale and the company’s bottom line. It is not enough to keep employees safe, they must also be kept happy to prevent turnover.

Supervisors must also understand the aspects of your operation dealing with point of sale and supplier relations. Otherwise, they will not be able to initiate procedures in the warehouse that can benefit other aspects of your business. Good customer service starts at the warehouse, making your warehouse supervisor an important foundation to successful business relations with your customers.

The supervisor must know his subordinates jobs as well. He must be able to do all tasks that other employees perform so that he can train new employees and optimize operations for long standing employees. It is important that your supervisors are provided with structured training materials, manuals and software to teach proper safety and handling procedures to workers. Informal on the job training is more costly to efficiency and safety in the long run.

Instituting a long-term training and development program for both supervisors and subordinates allows businesses to reduce turnover. Employees trained under such programs are more satisfied, capable and efficient. Developing such a program will pay for itself in lower turnover, higher productivity and fewer work injuries.

The warehouse is like the human heart, taking in products and pumping them to where they are needed. When warehouse productivity slips, the entire organization is effected. By paying attention to the facility itself, the contents in it and the people running the operation, you will ensure the life of your business continues to thrive.