While a warehouse is generally thought of as the ‘middleman’ between manufacturers and customers, it holds greater relevance than most people think. With an increase in e-commerce platforms and customer demands of prompt product delivery, warehouses are proving effective at fulfilling those demands. Warehouse operations consist of a lot of moving parts and functions working in tandem to make sure that the correct product is received from the manufacturer, stored in the prescribed manner, and then delivered to the customer as per their requirements. Every warehouse process needs to work smoothly to identify bottlenecks and improve warehouse productivity
Need for improving warehouse efficiency
Managing a warehouse can be a demanding job. Small- and medium-sized warehouse managers face a lot of challenges in optimizing warehouse operations and increasing revenue. They constantly grapple with the following challenges:
Small and medium business owners don’t have the luxury of a huge budget and need to constantly stay inside the budget constraints.
Ensuring stock availability for small and frequent orders
E-commerce is growing at a rapid pace and warehouses have to quickly adapt to fulfill smaller multi-line orders at a higher frequency. Lead times also need to be shortened to speed up the delivery of products to the customer.
Poor preparedness for seasonal demands
Demand during the holiday season can sky-rocket requiring warehouses to stay prepared early on. An increase in pressure can lead to errors and misplacement of products which needs to be checked as well.
Managing availability and cost of labor
Availability of labor is a very fluctuating issue. Managers need to be prepared for labor strikes, illness or injury to people in the workforce, hiring new candidates, cost of labor, and a lot more. The ongoing pandemic has added to the challenges in workforce availability.
Improper management of data and multiple delivery channels
Managing data about every single inventory movement can be a tough task if done manually. It gives rise to erroneous records, lost data, or inaccurate inventory statistics across multiple delivery channels.
Struggle to bring down operational costs
Warehouse managers have to come up with ways to cut down on operational spending and not break the bank. While complying with monetary restrictions, managers have to focus on customer satisfaction as well.
How can workflow efficiency be improved?
Leverage Automation and digitization.
Warehouse operations still involve a lot of manual processes that are liable to delays and errors. Employees spend most of their time locating, picking up items, and moving back and forth to the entire warehouse. Intense manual efforts can lead to miscalculations, wrong pickup, inaccurate inventory count, and sub-optimal picking rates.
Implementing advanced Warehouse management and orchestration software can establish a standard workflow for employees to follow throughout the order fulfillment cycle. It can capture product data in real-time, creating an optimized path for pickers to follow and complete the order in the least amount of time possible.
Solutions (like Hopstack) combine advanced analytics and automation to improve warehouse efficiency. They provide accurate insight on picking, packing, shipping, and inventory count for streamlining goods and parcel movement, significantly reducing errors that arise due to manual processes.
Read Also - Digital Transformation of the Warehouse
Optimize your Warehouse Storage
How a warehouse stores its inventory and manages the available storage space is a key factor in optimizing the entire workflow. Disorganized shelves, cluttered employee workstations, and improper use of vertical space can cause picking delay, misplace items or provide an inaccurate inventory count.
Optimizing warehouse storage lets you store more inventory without expanding the square footage. Labeling packages properly, segregating stocks based on different parameters, using taller storage systems, different shelves for different sized materials, standardized bins for keeping shelves tidy, color-coding pallets, analyzing material usage patterns, and more can make product picking as seamless and error-free as possible.
Follow Lean Warehousing
While stock-piling something that is in huge demand can be profitable in the short run, customer needs and preferences keep on changing. Warehouses should practice the idea of “lean” inventory to prevent stocks from expiring or going to waste.
Lean inventory suggests warehouses use only what they require and nothing more. Adopting this method not only prevents warehouses from ordering more inventory than they need, but it also helps in eliminating waste as small quantities are dispatched from the supplier at frequent intervals rather than sending a huge shipment one-time.
Through lean principles, warehouse operators focus on continuous process improvement to improve workflow efficiency, prevent stock-piling, better utilize storage space and streamline processes to help customers get products faster.
As a result, customers should opt for software that can leverage AI to help them with inventory optimization by dynamically maintaining safety stock levels, reordering thresholds, and also demand forecasts.
Improve Labor Productivity
Although technology is used extensively in the modern warehouse, labor still makes up for the largest share in warehouse operation costs. Improving labor productivity is fundamental to improving the workflow efficiency of a warehouse.
Having a robust warehouse operating system in place makes labor management easier for warehouse operators. They can set up training routines for new joiners or create a cross-training plan for workers to learn different tasks beyond their domains. Not only does this improve the competency of workers but can come in handy when a specialized worker is unable to come to work.
Encouraging workers to share what they think can reduce costs in a warehouse and work on their pain points can also prove constructive as they are responsible for most warehouse processes.
Design a Standardized Workflow
Without a standard workflow in place, employees end up working at their own pace and comfort. Different working habits can create gaps in warehouse processes and makes it difficult to measure individual performance against set benchmarks.
Establishing a standardized workflow makes sure that every employee is working within the same guidelines and there is transparency among them about package movement, order fulfillment, and other processes. Following a streamlined and well-defined process is useful in identifying issues and bottlenecks that are hampering the efficient workflow of the warehouse.
Implementing best approaches to ensure smooth and efficient warehouse operations is fundamental to cutting down on costs, enhancing the productivity of the warehouse, and increasing ROI. Leveraging modern warehouse execution and optimization software can help in improving the efficiency of workflows and getting the most out of your warehouse.
Interested in learning more about how to improve the workflow efficiency of your warehouse?
Explore Hopstack's AI-powered warehouse execution software that easily integrates with your existing hardware infrastructure, ERP, and WMS systems to automate and optimize various operations inside the warehouse facility.