You don’t know what’s going on in your warehouse.
You trust your staff to be doing the best job they can (and they probably are) but the pace of work is slow, simple things take a long time, orders often go out late and sometimes wrong and returns and complaints are more than a little alarming. The warehouse is a bit of a mess with stock in the aisles and pallets of stuff waiting of for attention or (more likely) disposal, or maybe they are half picked orders. Walking through the warehouse you see someone you’ve never seen before standing still and staring alternately between the piece of paper in their hand and a pallet of stock somewhere up in the rack, he’s probably a casual brought in to help catch up with the order backlog from last week’s sale. Up in the receiving dock three people are in a huddle staring at the computer, a box of stock and a piece of paper. One person, crumpled pick slip in hand, is actually moving boxes on to a trolley picking an order. So that is five staff and only one person seems to be productive, and where are the other two? You don’t know, maybe they are away today.
This is bleak and all to common occurrence in many warehouses, but it doesn’t have to be this way.
A slow and labour intensive warehouse operation is a combination of many factors and is a complex problem. But if you want to get quickly to the heart of your issues here are three areas to work on that will help you overcome a lot of your problems:
If your staff cannot easily identify what item they are handling, they will spend time identifying it. This affects every physical movement of stock in your warehouse and will not only slow everything down it will be the source of many errors in receiving and shipping. Clear product coding and descriptions on products that match what is in your system are fundamental to efficient warehouse operation. Product pictures on documentation and system screens can really help staff understand what they are handling. Tracking your stock in multiple units of measure (Pallets, Cartons, Eaches) is essential if you are handling and selling items this way. Barcoding on selling units, and cartons of products will also be very useful when you implement a Warehouse Management System.
How and where you store your stock in your warehouse has a huge impact on overall productivity. You have to match the storage with the product. I often see stock stored on long span shelving in pallet racking that could be stored much more densely in cheaper steel shelving. Storage density is key to efficiency and cost because it reduces travel path and allows you to fit more into your warehouse. Walk around your warehouse and look at how much air you are storing (and paying for) in the shelves around your product and in the unused height between your ceiling and racks.
Many businesses store their stock in family groups. This is what I call kitchen pantry stock management. All the spices are together, the jars are together, and sauces are together. This makes it easy to find things when you are managing a small space like a pantry. But it doesn’t scale to a warehouse. If you want to have a fast warehouse you will need to keep your fastest moving stock together, just like you keep the salt and pepper on the table, you use it all the time and you keep it where you can reach it quickly and easily.
The problem with breaking the family group rule and keeping the fast moving stock somewhere else is how to find it. You also have the problem of bulk stock where you only keep what you need for today handy, but the bulk is somewhere else. Somewhere else must be tracked by a location. Think of a location as a map reference or geo-location that tells you exactly where to find something. Tracking stock by rack and shelf bin location is essential if you want to be able to store and pick stock efficiently. Many simple inventory systems have only single location per item tracking or poorly realised multi-location tracking. It’s better than nothing but, single location tracking does not help with bulk stock management or pick location tracking (the place where you keep fast moving stock) and neither does simple multi-location management, which is never maintained accurately in practice because it is too complicated.
These are big and fundamental warehouse operational problems that are only solved with a Warehouse Management System that manages and tracks all your stock movements in real time using mobile scanners. That is why I started Logistics Cloud Co. to solve the fundamental problems that all warehouses have to overcome.
Picking by paper is slow. You usually pick one order at a time and then you have to pack it, invoice it and ship it. Combine that with the distance you cover walking all over the warehouse and the time taken to identify and find the stock and this is the number one reason you can’t get your orders out on time.
After dealing with your product identification, stock storage, and location issues, the way to speed your order fulfillment is to compress your fulfillment process by picking multiple orders at once and combining the packing, invoicing and shipping process.
If you have a simple inventory management system you may be able to use a batch pick process and connect your freight system to help with shipping. This is better than single order picking and manual consignment entry but is really just a stop gap until you are ready for a Warehouse Management System.
If you want to work as fast and efficiently as possible you will need to use a Warehouse Management System with more sophisticated processing that allows you to pick multiple orders at once, sort, pack and ship each order using a mobile application that tracks all of these movements in real time and manages the data entry and processing into your inventory and freight systems.
The Logistics Cloud Co. Warehouse Management System gives you the power to solve the three fundamental warehousing problems of product id, stock storage and tracking, and order fulfillment. It gives you the power to organise your warehouse in the most efficient layout and pick many orders together to speed order fulfillment. All your items are tracked in real time by storage location and the system tells you where to find it, even if it is in multiple bins around the warehouse. Mobile scanners and barcodes on items and storage bins are used to speed data entry and confirm all your stock movements as you go. Your pickers are more efficient, and you can track their productivity and see the pick rates improve. Receiving entry is done as you count in your stock and can be putaway immediately to the most efficient spot so you can pick, pack, and ship it – goodbye lost stock, late orders and mis-picks!
If you feel the need for speed in your warehouse then call us today to find out more.