Warehousing is a crucial component for many businesses, but not all warehouse operations are created equal—as evidenced by the wild success of Amazon over the years.
While Amazon’s success extends far beyond its warehouse efficiency, it does play a role. The company’s reliable delivery times, one key driver of business over the years for Amazon, lean heavily on efficient warehouse operations. Roughly 13 percent of consumers will not order again from a business that delivers later than expected, for instance, and Amazon mops up many of these customers.
The best warehouse businesses incorporate a number of key processes and systems to perform at their best. Here are the top five.
1. A Floor Plan Optimized for Efficiency and Safety
A good floor plan is a must for any successful warehouse: it minimizes the risk of mistakes, accidents, wasted time, and order delays. A poorly-made plan is just one sign of an unprofessional warehouse business, and it needs to be addressed to maximize efficiency.
First, let’s focus on safety. It’s paramount in any working environment, but the nature of warehouse work leaves staff particularly vulnerable. Annual fatalities climbed from 11 to 22 between 2015 and 2017, and the injury ratio is 5.1 per 100 full-time employees (the same as for farm workers).
A floor plan should be designed to reduce danger however possible, such as preventing workers from working in close proximity to forklift trucks and implementing one-way lanes to avoid collisions.
Another vital part of a good floor plan is taking advantage of the space available without creating clutter. No worker should have to move one package to reach another, for example, and aisles should be kept wide enough to accommodate multiple workers without interrupting the flow.
2. An Effective Management System to Maintain Order
The best warehouse businesses leverage the latest technological solutions to boost efficiency and streamline processes whenever possible.
This cuts down on the mountains of paperwork that outdated warehouse managers may still rely on and reduces the potential for oversights. Warehouse management solutions such as Loxodo empower management teams to stay informed of order statuses, use part tracking, monitor picking and packing, and more.
This technology connects managers to warehouse-floor activities in real time, with mobile management available for round-the-clock efficiency. But implementing a system requires planning and change management to ensure a smooth transition. Work with staff to help them acclimate to new platforms and processes comfortably.
Further, warehouse management software can be integrated with an ERP solution such as SAP Business ByDesign to enable teams to access data from one or more warehouses along with other crucial company tools (accounting, customer management, etc.) for enhanced visibility.
3. Cutting-Edge Equipment for a Cleaner Work Environment
Warehouse businesses typically store goods for a number of companies, and products must reach buyers in the condition expected. That means shipping packages covered in dust or mysterious stains is a no-no, especially with perishable goods.
A rigorous cleaning regime helps to keep warehouses clean and hygienic, but hiring a team of cleaners to handle the job adds to the expense of day-to-day operations significantly. Fortunately, investing in the latest cleaning machinery can cut the amount of work and bodies required, making money go further.
A floor sweeper, for example, is an effective tool for removing debris and dust that could affect product packaging. It’s easy to use and can achieve a higher quality of cleaning in a bigger space, and in less time, than a manual approach.
4. Ongoing Process Analysis to Identify Improvement Opportunities
Widespread reliance on advancing technologies to boost efficiency and monitor activities, along with changing consumer habits, is driving gradual evolution in warehouse operations.
Businesses can leverage wearable technology to measure worker productivity, as Amazon has (albeit to a mixed reception). Sensors and robotics lead to increased automation, allowing for better use of vertical space.
This continual shift presents warehouse businesses with opportunities to improve efficiency and performance. Management teams should evaluate existing processes to identify flaws that could be fixed by implementing a new system, adjusting floor plans, training staff, or making one of many other possible changes.
Evaluations should be scheduled at least four times a year.
5. A Workforce Incentivized to Perform at their Best
Successful warehouse operations rely on a motivated workforce. But actually providing staff with a reason to bring their best to the job on every single shift can be difficult.
Employee reward schemes are one way to incentivize teams and cultivate loyalty. A survey of 1,500 workers found that 63 percent who were “always” or “usually” recognized had no immediate plans to look for a new job, and 40 percent of employees would put more effort into their work if they received more regular recognition.
Rewards can vary, from commission-based pay to gift cards for employees hitting certain milestones. However, it’s crucial that all staff feel valued and receive recognition for their efforts. Warehouse businesses may find asking employees for feedback on their working conditions, current incentives, personal development goals, etc. inspires ideas to motivate them better.
Warehouse businesses may find that implementing the ideas discussed above into their operations helps them to boost efficiency, performance, and worker motivation. Improving processes takes time and money, but positive results will make your investments worthwhile.
Some changes will be easier to implement than others depending on the scale of your warehouse business, finances, etc., but acting on any improvement opportunities that emerge will build a better business over time.