Running a successful warehousing operation requires a meticulous approach with keen attention to detail, effective management strategies, and a commitment to operational excellence. To help you get there, we’ve compiled a list of 39 tips for running a successful warehouse.
From optimizing your warehouse configuration and storage layout to mobilizing inventory management and order picking processes, these tips cover the critical areas that contribute to a well-organized and successful warehouse operation.
By implementing these proven strategies and incorporating them into your daily operations, you can enhance efficiency and minimize costs. Additionally, you will optimize inventory management, ensure workplace safety, and ultimately, deliver exceptional service to your customers.
Now let’s take a closer look at 39 tips for running a successful warehouse.
Running a Successful Warehouse: 39 Tips for Managing and Improving Warehouse Operations
Warehouse Layout Tips
1. Establish Dedicated Zones for Key Processes – When designing your warehouse, you should clearly mark out dedicated areas for essential operational processes such as receiving, putaway, storage, picking, packing, and shipping.
2. Optimize Your Warehouse Layout for Inventory Flow – The layout of your warehouse should be optimized to facilitate the flow of inventory through your business and minimize travel distance for warehouse employees involved in order processing. Your order putaway zone should be physically located between your receiving docks and storage area, while picking/packing stations should be positioned between storage and shipping.
3. Avoid Long Storage Aisles – Long storage aisles force employees to take long, roundabout walks to access nearby inventory. In addition, they can unsafely climb through shelving and storage systems to save time. Avoiding long storage aisles can accelerate your order picking and putaway processes.
4. Optimize Aisle Width – Having more narrow aisles in your storage area increases the amount of inventory you can have on-hand. But, it also restricts space for employees, equipment, and inventory traveling through your warehouse. The optimal aisle width in your facility will depend on the type of equipment you use and the volume of traffic in your warehouse.
5. Choose the Right Storage System – The warehouse storage system you choose can have a major impact on how efficiently you can use your warehouse space. Tall shelving and pallet racking systems are good options for maximizing vertical space.
Warehouse Receiving Tips
6. Standardize Warehouse Receiving Procedures – Incoming inventory needs to be counted, verified, inspected, and approved before it can be accepted into the warehouse. We recommend implementing a Standardized Operating Procedure (SOP) in the form of a checklist to ensure these steps are conducted in earnest. The best time to identify a bad shipment is before you accept it.
7. Establish Receiving Dock Protocols – Your warehouse also needs clear protocols that detail how the inventory receiving process should be conducted. These protocols can include designating a receiving area, establishing where and how delivery trucks should be parked, and guidelines for inspections and accepting/rejecting shipments.
8. Pre-Plan Your Receiving Schedule – Coordinating with your suppliers to establish delivery schedules in advance gives you plenty of notice to arrange shipments at convenient times and effectively coordinate equipment and labor resources to receive inventory.
9. Conduct Thorough Inventory Inspections – The best way to keep a good relationship with a trusted supplier is to thoroughly inspect every shipment they deliver. A thorough inspection gives you the opportunity to identify any missing or damaged inventory. It also can address the issue with your supplier before accepting the shipment. You don’t want to be calling your supplier with a damage claim days after accepting the goods.
Warehouse Storage Tips
10. Optimize Inventory Slotting to Drive Picking/Putaway Efficiency – Your fast-moving, high-volume SKUs should be stored closer to picking/packing zones, whereas, slower-moving inventory can be stored further away. Organizing your warehouse storage in this way minimizes travel time during the order picking process.
11. Group Similar/Related Items Together – Similar items, items in the same product category, or items that are often purchased together should be stored close together in the warehouse. Analyzing your orders to look for patterns can help you identify items that are frequently ordered together. Storing similar items close together in your warehouse helps accelerate the order picking process.
12. Utilize Vertical Storage Space – If you’re only using 20% or 50% of the storage space in your warehouse, you’re wasting a lot of money on rent. That’s why it’s important to utilize the vertical storage space in your warehouse. Height access equipment like platform ladders or forklift work platforms can help warehouse employees safely access items stored on high shelves.
13. Implement FIFO/FEFO Storage as Needed – When dealing with perishable items or items that expire, we recommend implementing first-in, first-out (FIFO) or first-expired, first out (FEFO) storage as needed. These methods reduce waste by ensuring that older inventory closer to expiry is moved out before the fresher product.
14. Use Signage and Labels to Clearly Identify SKUs – Whatever storage system you use, you’ll need prominent signage and labels to indicate which SKUs are stored in each location. Without adequate signage, warehouse employees waste valuable time searching for storage locations. As a result, order picking/putaway efficiency plummets.
Inventory Management Tips
15. Digitize Inventory Management – If you’re still doing paper-based inventory management, digitizing your inventory management system can significantly improve the efficiency of your warehouse. Going digital gives you enhanced visibility of inventory throughout the warehouse. In addition, it gives your employees instant access to inventory data on mobile workstations. Your software inventory management system also acts as a valuable data source that can help you measure SKU velocity and optimize your storage layout.
16. Barcode/RFID Tag and Label Everything – Barcodes and RFID tagging remove the need for manual data entry when adding or removing inventory from your warehouse. Instead, employees use a barcode scanner or RFID reader to scan the item and update its status in your inventory management system.
17.Use Cycle Counting to Track Inventory Levels – Most warehouses audit inventory levels with an annual physical count; therefore, closing down the warehouse for several days to count every SKU in the building to verify inventory levels. A more efficient method is cycle counting, where the company regularly counts fewer SKUs instead of counting them all at once. You can schedule cycle counts to ensure that all SKUs are counted within a determined period of time.
18. Establish Reorder Points and Safety Stock Levels – For each item in your warehouse, you’ll need to establish reorder points and maintain adequate safety stock levels, thus avoiding an out-of-stock situation. To determine the reorder point for a SKU, you’ll need to measure SKU velocity and determine the supplier’s lead time for re-ordering the inventory. An adequate safety stock is 50-100% of the stock you expect to use during your supplier’s lead time.
19. Use Demand Forecasting to Avoid Stock Shortages – Data from your inventory management system can help you forecast demand for specific SKUs and avoid stock shortages.
Warehouse Order Picking Tips
20. Analyze Order Patterns – Look at your company’s order history to understand patterns in ordering. Which SKUs are the most popular? Which SKUs are the least popular? Which items are frequently ordered together? Answering these questions can help you optimize your storage layout for a smoother order picking process.
21. Experiment with Multiple Picking Methods – There are many different order picking methods to choose from and the best one for you will depend on the specific circumstances of your business and warehousing operation. Piece picking, where items are picked from the warehouse one at a time, is probably the least efficient option. Alternatives like batch, zone, and wave picking help accelerate the order picking process.
22. Optimize Pick Paths – You can implement order picking software that automatically compares your full list of orders to your warehouse storage layout and creates optimized order picking paths that save time and eliminate waste in the order-picking process.
23. Use Cross Docking when Possible – Cross-docking is a warehouse practice where inventory is received from a supplier and directly loaded onto a shipping vehicle for distribution to customers without going into storage. It saves time, money, and storage space, and should be done whenever possible.
24. Use Mobile Technology to Drive Speed and Accuracy – Deploying mobile workstations to assist employees can enhance speed and accuracy in the order picking process. Mobile workstations bring computing power, RFID/barcode technology, and warehouse management software to the point of task. As a result, employees can work faster and instantly verify every picked item.
Supplier Management Tips
25. Set Clear Expectations – Establish clear expectations with your suppliers around important factors like product quality, delivery schedules, lead times, and pricing. Keep open lines of communication and encourage suppliers to proactively inform you of sourcing or quality issues that could impact lead times.
26. Build Strong Relationships with Key Suppliers – Know who your most important suppliers are and build strong, mutually beneficial relationships with them. Strong supplier relationships can get your business preferential treatment and improved service levels. It can also lead to better pricing terms and easier resolution for simple issues like damaged inventory.
27. Diversify Your Supplier Base – Becoming too dependent on a small number of suppliers is a big risk. What if your supplier goes out of business or can’t deliver? Instead, try to diversify your supply base and reduce risk by ordering products from multiple sources.
28. Negotiate Favorable Terms – Periodically review your relationship and agreements with each supplier and try to negotiate better terms when it’s favorable to do so. As your business grows, you become an increasingly important source of revenue for your suppliers. This can give you increased leverage to ask for cost savings, volume discounts, or better payment terms.
Warehouse Safety Tips
29. Implement Safety Training – Warehouse employees need warehouse safety training to maintain a safe working environment, mitigate health risks, and avoid injury. A comprehensive safety training program includes instruction on PPE requirements, ladder safety and fall prevention, forklift safety checks, hazardous materials handling, fire safety, CPR, and emergency procedures.
30. Keep Your Warehouse Clean and Organized – A clean and organized warehouse is a safe warehouse. Keep storage aisles and pedestrian walkways free from loose inventory and debris. This helps keep traffic moving in your warehouse and reduces the risk of slip-and-fall accidents.
31. Regularly Inspect and Maintain Equipment – Regularly inspecting and servicing your material-handling equipment (e.g. conveyors, container handlers, end rider trucks, order picker vehicles, forklifts, etc.) allows you to diagnose and address mechanical problems before they result in an accident on the warehouse floor.
32. Train Employees on Ergonomics to Avoid Workplace Injuries – Employees can injure themselves by doing repetitive tasks in the warehouse with poor form or posture. To reduce workplace injuries, warehouse managers should train workers on the importance of ergonomics and provide ergonomic workstations that help eliminate discomfort and reduce injury risks.
33. Implement an Emergency Response Plan – Every warehouse needs an emergency response plan. Your plan should outline an evacuation procedure, designate an off-site meeting place for evacuated employees, and indicate who the team should contact in case of an emergency.
Warehouse Technology Tips
34. Implement a Warehouse Management System (WMS) – A warehouse management system (WMS) is a software solution that helps you streamline and automate warehouse processes. These processes include inventory management, storage layout optimization, and order picking.
35. Increase Worker Productivity with Mobile Workstations – Battery-powered mobile workstations like the DTG Problem Solver warehouse cart bring WMS software and barcode/RFID technology to the point of task. As a result, it empowers warehouse staff to receive and put away inventory or pick orders faster and more accurately.
Warehouse Packing and Shipping Tips
36. Optimize Packaging Materials – Choose low-cost packaging materials that protect your products and prevent damage while minimizing excess weight. Purchase differently-sized boxes and right-size each package to reduce shipping costs.
37. Choose Reliable Shipping Partners – When it comes to choosing a shipping partner to send out your orders, choose a reliable shipping partner who maintains high quality standards, consistently delivers on time, and takes care of your product.
38. Streamline Order Processing – Your order processing time is a measurement of the average time between when a customer places an order and when that order is shipped from your warehouse. Faster order processing increases customer satisfaction and encourages repeat business.
39. Implement a Reverse Logistics Process – Reverse logistics is the process of accepting returned product into your warehouse, documenting reasons for the return, and shipping the product back to the manufacturer/distributor when appropriate.
Tracking KPIs to Measure and Improve Your Warehouse
Tracking and measuring warehouse efficiency metrics and Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) is the best way to quantify the efficiency gains you’ll achieve by implementing these tips.
Financial KPIs like revenue, profit margin, and profit-per-employee can help you understand overall business performance. Operational KPIs, like average order processing time or receiving productivity, can help you evaluate and improve warehouse processes.
Warehouse managers should regularly review operational performance data, efficiency metrics, and KPI measurements, searching for ways to continuously improve warehouse processes and drive profitability.
Optimize Your Warehouse Efficiency with DTG Mobile Workstations
DTG’s Problem Solver warehouse cart is a battery-powered mobile workstation purpose-built to enhance speed and accuracy in every aspect of warehouse operations – from receiving, put-away, and storage, to order picking, packing, and shipping.
Our durable, ergonomic workstations bring people and technology together at the point of task. This eliminates wasted steps and saves time. Additionally, it gives warehouse staff the tools they need to maximize their productivity and make fewer mistakes.
Check out our video testimonial, Improving Warehouse Efficiencies at a Top Technology Company, to see how our battery-powered mobile workstations helped a leading electronics company save $50,000 per year at all of its fulfillment centers.
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Contact us for a free virtual demo and discover why America’s largest warehousing operations depend on DTG mobile workstations to lower costs and drive efficiency.