The year is at an end, and what better time to start thinking about going into the new year with a bang than making sure you overhaul the processes and systems that could save you time and money? Although speed and productivity are not new must-haves in the optimum supply chain management mix, technology is constantly improving how we manage end-to-end logistics procedures. But we don’t all need the latest shiny toys and gadgets to deliver improvements to our processes. In this post, we look at a few easy tips that will provide better warehouse management in 2018.
1. Increase the size of your carts to increase picking efficiency
Want to save time picking in 2018? According to Logistics Management, one of the latest trends is picking multiple orders at one time with a single cart. All you’ll need is to increase the size of your carts to 5x2 feet with at least two or three shelves and you should be able to pick multiple items at any given go. If you’re using a smaller cart, you’ll not only be picking less items, but you’ll be spending more time pushing less inventory across the warehouse.
“If you can get a little bigger cart that can accommodate a few totes or boxes at time, you can drive up your pick rates, instead of having to make 20 trips through the warehouse to pick 20 orders.”
A few other helpful tips that will make picking rates in 2018 are:
- Simplify order fulfilment by standardising your storage containers – this will make it easier to find and store materials, and will give your warehouse an overall neater look
- Assign locations to bins and pallets to minimise misplaced inventory and reduce the amount of time it takes looking for items
- Get into the habit of clearly labelling shelves and tools and make sure products are easy to scan
- If you do picking manually, try to simplify the process as much as possible so your pickers don’t have to think too long about what their retrieving
Are you looking to reduce handling times and gain significant improvements in efficiency? Cross-docking may be one strategy that can help you achieve this because it helps to reduce the amount of time products spend in limbo between suppliers and customers.
To understand how cross-docking works, take a look at the image below. As you can see, there are dock doors on both sides of the docking terminal with a screening area in-between. This set-up allows you to receive products through an inbound dock, sort them quickly, and then rapidly deploy them to the transportation dock.
Establishing a central site for products to be sorted for delivery to multiple destinations, rather than unpacking into warehouse shelving and racks, means you’ll save a lot of time fulfilling orders. If you’re really looking to save time, you could even cut out the sorting time and load materials directly from inbound to outbound trucks, however, this will only work if your products don’t need sorting or consolidating.
It’s worth noting that cross-docking doesn’t suit all warehouses, so you’ll need to decide whether or not it will help or hinder your productivity and improve or detract from your customers’ satisfaction. However, if cross-docking is suited to your specific business needs and warehouse, you’ll experience the below benefits:
- A more streamlined supply chain
- Reduced labour costs
- Reduced inventory handling costs
- Reduced fulfilment time
3. Inventory Analysis
Our last post looked at a range of ways to better plan distribution warehouse capacity, and we explored how the goldilocks principle could be relayed into your inventory management strategy to ensure “it’s just right”. However, we didn’t look at a range of inventory analysis techniques that can assist you to finding that perfect level of inventory control. Take a look at a few below:
Categorises items based on their annual consumption value, allowing you establish small amounts of inventory that contributes large amounts of consumption value and larger amounts of inventory that produce less value.
This is how you can break down your ABC Analysis:
- CLASS A: 10% of total inventories contributing towards 70% of total consumption value
- CLASS B: 20% of total inventories, which account for about 20% of total consumption value
- CLASS C: 70% of total inventories, which account for only 10% of total consumption value
Classifies inventory based on quantity, rate of consumption and frequency of issues and uses. Once you look into this, you should be able to establish fast moving, slow moving and non-moving items.
Classifies inventory in order of relative importance of items compared to other items into three categories: vital; essential; desirable.
Classifies inventory according to how much a product/unit costs so you understand how much value you derive from high cost, medium cost and low costs items.
These are just a few methods to analyse your inventory, but if you’re looking to create a leaner and more profitable supply chain in 2018, doing a bit of analysis now will deliver great benefits in the new year.
Once you’ve established which items are providing the most value, and which picking and fulfilment strategies are the best for your business, it’ll will be important to see how your warehouse is performing in general.
Consider this example: after your inventory assessment you’ve established that you have a low-cost unit that is delivering a large portion of revenue to the business. However, you’ve found after doing a warehouse walkthrough that these items are incredibly inconvenient for staff to pick. This poses an issue for growth to any business because it means you would be spending too much time picking your most popular and valuable items.
There are a few ways to mitigate issues such as this and we’ve outlined them below:
Make sure you conduct a warehouse walkthrough to gain a solid understanding of how your warehouse operates on a day to day basis. It doesn’t have to be detailed, but making sure your most popular/valuable items are the easiest items to access will deliver greater revenue and productivity.
You can’t really assess how well your warehouse is performing without the right data. Transactional and operational data will shed light on and add value to research analysis, different kinds of reporting and on-site fact finding to give you a birds-eye view of how well your warehouse is performing.
Ask your staff for feedback
You have a great resource in your warehouse staff. They understand the ins and outs, ebbs and flows, and the good, the bad and ugly of your warehouse. Ask them what challenges they face, as well as what makes their jobs easier. After all, it’s been found that happy staff are 12% more productive than unhappy staff.