As a company that specialises in benchmarking, we’re bound to tell you that the best of best warehouse practices is to start by benchmarking performance. However, after benchmarking comes the need to raise performance. The application of warehouse best practices will certainly get you some of the way there if they are implemented effectively.
In this post, we have listed four of our favourite warehousing best practices, which if adopted, will surely improve the performance of your logistics operation in terms of cost effectiveness and customer service levels.
1. Keep Touches to a Minimum
Minimising the amount of times your materials and products are touched is paramount to supply chain efficiency. Therefore it is a critical end-to-end consideration in your material flow, especially within your warehouses, where a lack of organisation can easily result in unnecessary handling. Seek to optimise warehouse flows and use automation where possible. The fewer touches your inventory receives, the less likely it is to be damaged and the lower will be your labour costs.
2. Untie Your Pickers’ Hands
The best thing warehouse operatives can do with their hands is to pick products. Any other use of their ten digits is a waste of productive capacity.
If you can afford the investment, now is the time to graduate to hands-free pick management solutions such as pick-to-light or voice-directed picking.
Hands-free technology is fast becoming considered as a warehousing best practice, now that prices are becoming more affordable. But hands-free means just that, as even portable RF scanners keep your operatives hands from productive picking. Those seconds taken to record barcodes and key in quantities really add up over time.
3. Implement Cycle Counting
If your warehouses currently practice full inventory counts once or twice a year, switch to a program of cycle counting.
This method of regularly counting small inventory groups will save you time and money, as long as you use it in place of, rather than alongside the annual physical count. Not only that, cycle counts enable you to catch discrepancies in a timelier manner, which can reduce leakage and raise inventory accuracy. As a warehousing best practice, cycle counting is one of the most effective ways to improve inventory management.
4. Review Inventory Slotting Every Quarter
Re-slotting your warehouse pick faces is an expensive and time-consuming task, especially if you leave it too long. A regular slotting review, say, once every three months, is a warehousing best practice we believe to be important. Evaluate if your slot locations are still optimal and re-slot where necessary.
It’s always a case of striking a balance between the cost of re-slotting and the efficiencies that can be gained. However, when you consider that 50% or more of your warehouse operatives’ time is spent traveling between pick faces, it’s not hard to see the value in reducing that time as much as possible by slotting inventory strategically.
Finally: Customise Your Warehouse Best Practices
To return to the point made at the beginning of this post, the best of warehouse best practices is to begin by benchmarking your current performance. Adopting best practices is something that’s best done with specific goals in mind. A benchmarking exercise shows you exactly where you need to improve, enabling you to choose the best practices that will deliver targeted results.
Having said all that, best practices bear the label for a reason—because they are proven to deliver performance improvements. So remember to keep your eyes and ears open to see what’s working well in your industry sector. Don’t be afraid of experimentation either. Who knows, you might just discover the next big thing in warehousing best practice.