It's the primary challenge faced by any warehouse manager or owner - that of figuring out the best way to make your facility an industry leader both in terms of productivity and efficiency. The difficulty of the question lies in the fact that there's no one agreed-upon way to boost productivity and efficiency in a warehouse. What might work for someone else's employees and facility might be completely inappropriate for your own. That said, there are a few paths that have been proven to be consistently effective throughout the industry, ways to improve productivity and efficiency while maintaining the morale (and in many cases, improving it) of your workforce. If you feel as though your facility's metrics have peaked, try implementing a few of these ideas; you may find that there are still much greater heights for your warehouse to reach.
Record What Works to Improve Warehouse Productivity
You'd be hard pressed to find a warehouse out there that doesn't have at least something going for it. Even if its overall processes are a total mess, sifting through the clutter will likely reveal that at least one of its parts is outperforming the others. Odds are that you're already familiar with the outstanding area of your facility, but perhaps you haven't given much thought as to why they're consistently doing better than the rest of the warehouse. By applying a little investigative work to that area's operations, you can find out what sets them apart and hopefully discover that their secret sauce is something that can be applied to the rest of the facility.
It should also go without saying that boosting productivity and efficiency in a warehouse might not be your primary concern if you can't identify an exceptional aspect of your facility's operations. Not because that signifies your employees being completely incompetent; as stated, virtually every warehouse has some positive element going for it. The more likely issue is that you or your management team have not been keeping close enough track of performance across departments/areas to make the determination. If that's the case, your first step in implementing this advice should be to increase your performance-tracking capabilities; only then will you be able to determine which parts of your facility are working as planned and which aren't.
Tracking Technology to Improve Warehouse Efficiency
Part of measuring what works is making sure that all of your stock is getting where it needs to go (and getting there as quickly as it can). Doing so, however, can be nearly impossible if you're relying on outdated technology to assist in stock management and tracking. Consider investing in a strong warehouse management system (WMS), ideally one that makes use of barcode or RFID readers to generate automated pick lists for devices associated with the system. Though the initial cost and confusion associated with instituting the system might make this an unattractive option, consider these issues as simple growing pains you must endure to improve the performance of your facility and maintain its competitiveness for years to come. It's not as though you'll need to wait long to see results, either; a study performed by the University of Arkansas suggested that warehouses that implemented RFID tracking improved their inventory accuracy by 27 percent in three short months.
Warehouse Layout to Maximize Productivity
Imagine that you're standing on a walkway above the floor of your warehouse. Most likely you've done this countless times, studying the layout of your facility and wondering whether you're making the best use of the space. Perhaps your equipment has become clunky and outdated in comparison to the newest models available, or maybe the flow of labor isn't following this most efficient path. Whatever the case, you're likely aware of how a reworking of the layout would improve productivity; and you're also aware of just how disruptive that would be to your business, which is why the project keeps getting put off.
Nobody likes downtime, but there are a few instances in which it's not only justified but necessary. Reworking the layout of your facility absolutely qualifies, as the week or two it might take to update your facility can help keep your company efficient and competitive for years to come. When creating your new layout, keep in mind that there's going to be people working in it each and every day; giving them the space they need to do their job is of the utmost importance. Luckily, most modern warehouse equipment takes up a great deal less space than that of previous generations, which should give you a great deal of flexibility in setting up your floor in the most efficient and productive way possible.
Incentivize and Train Warehouse Staff
Employee comfort goes further than just making sure they have room to work. It's also up to you to see to it that they're satisfied and happy in their jobs. Managing employee satisfaction isn't just the right to do; it's also the best way to ensure their continued productivity. Furthermore, managers and owners with a long-term view of their business know that it's always better to hire from within when possible. Doing so gives your promoted employee a real sense of accomplishment and ownership of their role, plus it saves the time it'd take to bring an outsider up to speed with your company's policies and procedures.
Luckily, the team-based environment in which most warehouse employees operate lends itself perfectly to friendly competition. By setting lofty (but realistic) goals for your associates, you're sending the message that you're confident in their abilities to reach those goals and that those who pull their weight will be rewarded appropriately. Consider also offering free continuing education courses on warehouse management to those interested, as there's few better ways to identify employees that want to be with your company for the long haul and contribute to its growth.
Improve Efficiency in Your Warehouse
No two warehouses are exactly the same. Though you know the particulars of your facility and its people better than anybody, you may still be at a loss for how to get all those elements to work together in a way most befitting your business. We hope that the above tips have given you a few ideas on how to do just that, and we know that you'll put them to great use in making your warehouse as productive and efficient as it can be. If you have any further questions about warehouse optimization - or if you'd like to learn more about the equipment that can be of use in achieving that optimization - please feel free to get in touch with one of our friendly industry experts.