The task of optimising warehouse management and operations is one fraught will unique challenges. From ensuring efficient product flow and making the most of the layout, to meeting growing customer demand and optimising profitability, there are a number of factors that need to balanced on a daily basis. In order to help you find the best practises for your warehouse, here are 10 top tips to improve warehouse management and operations.

  1. Use a Warehouse Management System (WMS)

Investing in a WMS is a great way to ensure more control over your inventory, order fulfilment and shipping costs and procedures. There are a multitude of WMS options now available to businesses, with affordable price points that make them attainable to companies of all sizes. The system will give you far more insight on your operations and when combined with best practises on the floor it will enable you to minimise costs. It will make you a more agile business that can add those all-important areas of efficiency needed to sustain and grow your customer base.

  1. Move to digital processes

As with a WMS system, there are many other pieces of technology you can implement to improve the efficiency of your business. There can be a tendency for some warehouses to stubbornly remain rooted in traditional manual practises even when the benefits of going digital are clear. Mobile devices that feature RFID readers or barcode scanners will improve processing speeds in the docking area and reduce the likelihood of manual errors. The knock on effect is you will see greater accuracy in your inventory which then improves overall management and distribution of your goods.

  1. Use individual SKUs in single bin locations

Picking productivity is negatively impacted when multiple SKUs are mixed together in one bin location. Time efficiency is important when it comes to picking and the more time the operator has to spend at the bin searching through different SKUs, the longer it will take to find and pick the item needed. Not only will this slow down the operator but it can also impact accuracy. Even a seemingly small delay of 10-15 seconds can have a big effect overall when this occurs multiple times throughout the day.

  1. Keep track of inventory picking

There are some seasonal items that are only popular at certain times of the year and it doesn’t make sense to stock them all year round. The cost of storing these sorts of items can outweigh their revenue over time, so it’s important to be aware of where your margins are. It you track and record inventory this will give you a clear idea of how many times it has been picked. From here you can make an informed judgement about the value of the space it occupies in the warehouse and decide whether or not to continue or remove it from your inventory.

  1. Implement asset tracking to improve forecasting

When done accurately, forecasting will help ensure your inventory is in good shape and also save you money. The basis of strong forecasting comes from good market research to understand the demands of your products during particular periods. It ensures you can accurately predict the items you need to hold and the quantity, reducing the amount of surplus stock you hold at any one time. The bottom line you’ll enjoy is greater control over expenditure and reduced costs in the long-term.

  1. Introduce an efficient returns procedure

Dealing with returns can be complicated so it’s important to have a clear system set up. Ensure returned items are identified and assigned to a customer account and physically sorted. You may have to use a mixture of electronic and manual procedures due to repacking. Credits are added at a later date and usually for certain types of return, whether it be un-saleable goods or items that need to be disposed of. Specialised returned systems included in a WMS system may be more effective for this rather than using paper or generic ERP packages.

  1. Track performance management

The use of a modern performance management system will keep your warehouse on the cutting edge and establish clear efficiency metrics. This type of software can help set the bar for performance standards and enable management to assess employee performance against the standards that have been put in place. You can also use the software to manage the progress and development of employee’s over time as each review is carried out, giving you a timeline of their evolution in the company. It will also create more meaningful discussions at management level and add further context to higher level reports.

  1. Integrate automation

The shift towards the use of automation in warehousing has been happening for quite some time, with companies of all sizes seeing the benefits it can bring to their operations. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic the e-commerce sector has accelerated its growth as the move away from physical outlets becomes more stark. There are a number of entry levels available with the technology, so whether you are a small business working to a tight budget, or unsure about committing to automation too heavily, it can be integrated into your current setup to improve efficiency and drive down costs. And it doesn’t have to come at the cost of existing worker’s jobs, with automation taking on the menial labour jobs so staff can work in other areas and broaden their skill set.

  1. Combine system knowledge

When paired with a WMS, asset tracking will ultimately improve warehouse productivity. Controlling fulfilment, inventory and shipping costs is a recipe for success, and businesses are constantly looking for ways to maximise labour efficiency and visibility within their warehouses. Using a sophisticated WMS combined with best practice will optimise resources within distribution resources, while at the same time reduce operational costs.

  1. Data synchronisation

Synchronising SKU information across all relevant sections of your operations will improve visibility and streamline what would typically be labour-intensive tasks. The transfer of global data is now easier and more cost effective than ever before, removing the need to re-key information, effortlessly upgrading inventory and reducing errors. The next stage is to be in a position to receive SKU information directly from suppliers and for that to automatically update in-house systems.