Are you planning to open a small warehouse? Want to squeeze more efficiency out of your existing space? You’re not alone.
The warehousing and logistics industries are in flux right now. Rising costs, increased demand and limited resources are all combining to make it an ‘interesting’ time to be a warehouse manager or owner!
If you’re looking for some marginal gains to help extract the maximum value from your storage space, we have some ideas to help.
Each has been tried and tested across the industry and can deliver tangible improvements to efficiency and costs.
Study Your Floor Plan
Has your warehouse been running for a while? Has it evolved rather than been designed? This could lead to space or process inefficiencies that could cost time and money.
Taking a step back and studying your floor plan can identify areas that don’t make sense or that can be tweaked for higher efficiency.
For example, is there a smooth flow between goods in and goods out? Is picking and packing efficient? Can staff reach all items they need to pick? Is there a logical order to how and where goods are stored?
Visit your warehouse on a weekend or quiet day and put yourself in the shoes of your staff. Mimic their workload and see if you can identify areas that could be improved.
Asking staff whether there are issues with the layout or simple improvements you can make can also help.
Maximise Available Space
Maximising available space will include several other suggestions in this list including the layout, shelving, picking bins and more.
First, let’s talk about giving your receiving staff sufficient space to move. Enough space to offload trucks, manoeuvre the forklift safely or move containers from goods in to storage without impacting other areas.
The same for packing. Give packing staff enough space to pick orders without getting in each other’s way. Minimise the distance pickers must travel to pick orders and give them the space to pack orders efficiently and send them on to dispatch.
While warehousing is largely about storage, the more efficient you make it to get goods in and out, the better for everyone.
Keep The Warehouse Clean
They say a tidy desk reflects a tidy mind and it’s no different in a warehouse.
A clean warehouse is a safer warehouse as there are fewer hazards. It’s also easier to offload, pick, pack and load. Items will be stacked and labelled, aisles will be clean and there’s nothing to cause a forklift to tip or crash into.
It’s not just about safety.
A clean warehouse is a nicer place to work, helps encourage a more positive attitude towards the workplace and a nicer place to spend time.
If the accident book gets used less often as a result, all the better!
Reducing clutter is similar to keeping your warehouse clean but has other elements too.
Reducing clutter can also mean getting rid of items that don’t sell, switching to just in time storage, recycling old packaging faster, buying larger bins for waste and reducing the number of containers being stored.
Reducing clutter also removes anything that gets in the way of the flow of goods.
That can include traffic barriers like overflowing shelves or old packaging or anything that causes slowdowns in unloading, storing and picking orders.
Organising your warehouse so it only stores goods that are required frees up space for more popular items. It can provide more space to offload, pick and pack too.
Use Storage And Picking Bins
There’s a lot to be said for storing warehouse items in their original pallet or packaging. There is also a lot to be said for unloading them into storage bins or picking bins.
This is doubly true in warehouses that deal with smaller items, catering ingredients or goods that are often picked in volume.
A storage bin provides protection as well as organisation and can come with lids or wheels depending on the size and requirement.
Picking bins are typically smaller and have a recess at one end to allow easy access. They can protect items inside while offering quick and easy access for picking
Storage and picking bins also have the advantage of being utilised with shelving. That can make them useful for odd corners, between shelving units or those odd spaces where it isn’t worth building a custom shelving unit.
They can stack themselves and nest once empty too, which has its own efficiencies.
Use The Right Shelving For The Job
Shelving is the cornerstone of warehousing, and is a must have item in any warehouse where efficiency is a primary focus.
If you began storing heavy goods but have evolved into a niche, the storage you have may not be the most efficient.
For example, if you evolved into supplying the catering industry, you would ideally want chrome shelving. It’s easy to clean, has antibacterial properties and has good airflow.
Rivet racking is very useful for smaller items. It’s flexible, can be configured to different heights and item weights and can be adjusted as required.
While reshelving a warehouse can be expensive, it can also significantly boost efficiency.
Place Similar Items Together
Placing similar items together makes them easier to find and to pack. Depending on your industry, you may find it more efficient to place items that are often packed together instead.
Either way, you can increase efficiency by logically organising where you place stock.
Staff won’t have to move so far and can pick and pack faster. You can also monitor stock levels easier, as frequently used items are all within easy reach.
The exact methodology of this will depend on your industry and type of warehouse operation.
Giving thought and, perhaps performing ABC analysis, on exactly where everything is located could provide genuine efficiencies.
Labels And Signage
Labels and signage are an essential part of organisation in a warehouse and can make a tangible difference to speed and efficiency.
Even the most experienced hand in your warehouse isn’t going to know where everything is. Neither are they going to know every new stock item you are warehousing.
Less experienced staff will need more help, which is where labels and signage comes in.
Logical signage for sections, safety and hazard signage for relevant areas and labels for everything take time and money to implement. But it can revolutionise the way your warehouse works.
This is especially true for picking and packing. Being able to quickly locate and pick items for orders can make a huge difference to your numbers.
An accurate labelling system can speed up picking and reduce errors. Both of which can help staff and customers.
Increase Storage Efficiency In Warehouses
There are hundreds of ways you can tweak a warehouse to improve efficiency. If those ways also increase staff safety and morale at the same time, all the better!
Most of these are cheap and easy to implement while others require investment. Depending on how efficient, or otherwise, your warehouse is, that may be an investment well worth making!