Managing a warehouse requires a lot of patience and hard work at the best of times. Thanks to recent events, including the pandemic and staff shortages, 2022 looks set to be a challenging year for businesses throughout the supply chain.
That means that leaders throughout the market, including warehouse managers, need to ensure that they do everything within their power to adapt and be as efficient and effective as possible throughout the coming year.
For warehouse managers, this might seem like a monumental task, particularly as many are dealing with reduced workforces and rising demands. As online shopping has flourished, many warehouses are now dealing with higher volumes of orders than ever before, so it’s crucial that you take the time to optimise your warehouse procedures and streamline your general operation.
If you want to streamline your warehouse procedures in 2022, then here are some useful tips that could make managing your warehouse easier for you and improve your output this year and possibly even beyond.
Whether you manage an internal warehouse for a large company or work as part of a logistics organisation for a range of clients, we’re here to offer some simple ways to streamline your procedures this year.
Review Your Current Procedures
The first step to adapting your warehouse processes and procedures is to review the ones you already have. Go over everything, from the initial order reception through to picking, packing and shipping everything out. You can then work out if there are any small gaps or issues that have arisen over time and see if you can instantly rectify these problems. This can be a quick and easy way to streamline practices without putting in much effort. Consider inviting team leaders to help you review your current warehouse management procedures, as they are the ones who allocate tasks and undertake the work. They might have some valuable first-hand advice for you that could help you to improve your processes. This should be undertaken every few months to ensure that you are constantly adapting and that your procedures are meeting the needs of your staff and clients.
Take Items Directly From Shelves To Shipping Containers
Traditionally, many warehouses use large bins or boxes to separate orders out after the items are taken from the shelves. These bins are then taken to the shipping container and emptied into it. This adds an extra, unneeded step to your warehouse processes. While it is sometimes essential, particularly if you’re shipping large orders or choosing items from multiple sections of the warehouse if it can be avoided, then it should be. Instead, staff should use trolleys to pick out everything and then take it straight to the shipping container. This approach will save you time and reduce a step in the process, particularly if you are using a different member of staff to pick and then another to unload your boxes and bins into the correct shipping container. This is just one example of improving your processes and should be something you learn when reviewing your warehouse procedures.
Optimise Your Existing Warehouse Space
When you’re reviewing your procedures and processes, you might notice that you are not using your current warehouse space effectively. Having items far apart or not leaving enough space for pallets could be causing issues and taking up your team’s precious time. With some simple adjustments to your existing warehouse, you can ensure that you always have enough room and have a streamlined working experience for your warehouse employees. There are many simple ways to increase warehouse space, meaning you can easily make the most of it and quickly ensure that you have space for everything you need to store. By using your warehouse space correctly and making the most of it, you can also ensure the safety of your staff and improve general warehouse efficiency. So, while it might take time to adapt and rearrange your warehouse, the effort will be worth it in the end.
Get Notifications From Vendors When Shipments Are Arriving
While you might have a rough schedule for the arrival of deliveries of stock, these can change during the day. Delays such as traffic or breakdowns can lead to you and your team having to wait for an important delivery. As such, you should talk to your vendors or logistics team to ensure that you have access to regular updates about when new deliveries will arrive. They might have an existing system that you can use, meaning you will get up-to-the-minute updates about when their deliveries will arrive, so you and your team aren’t left hanging around waiting in your loading dock. This approach will help you to save time and ensure that your deliveries are always met with enough staff to unload them promptly. This approach is particularly useful for any warehouses dealing with foods or other items that require refrigeration, as you have time deadlines to work around.
Use Clear Labelling And Signage For Shelves And Walkways
One major waste of time in a warehouse is searching for the right product and looking for the shelving unit where it is or needs to be placed. If you don’t already have clear labelling and signage throughout your warehouse, then you should add it now. This approach will make it easier for your staff to find where they need to go when they’re doing their jobs. It could also boost safety in your workplace, particularly if you use vehicles such as forklifts. You can use clear signs to show where forklifts will need to go so that anyone walking can be out of the way and at a safe distance. Therefore, you will save time and reduce the chances of accidents, which can also cause delays and significant problems for you and your warehouse workers.
Incorporate Barcodes Into Your Labels To Improve Stock Management
Written labels are useful for stock management, but barcodes can save you time and effort. While you should also write the name of items and stock numbers, a barcode can allow you to instantly scan an item and update your digital stock management system. If you’re not already using one, then check out the best warehouse inventory management systems on the market currently to find one that will suit your needs. Manually managing your warehouse’s inventory can be time-consuming and increase your chances of human error, which can lead to delays and stock losses. By using a digital system, you and your team can promptly log everything in your warehouse and instantly update the system when anything is sent out. You can also clearly show where items are stored in the warehouse, and by combining this with your clear shelving labels, you can make the whole process of picking items much more straightforward.
Digitalise Timesheets And Schedules
Another aspect of your warehouse management that should be digitalised, if it isn’t already, is your timesheets and working schedules for employees. Written timesheets and timetables require a lot of effort to upload on any other systems, such as payroll and admin software. Also, manually sharing details of working schedules can lead to confusion and issues, particularly if there are lots of changes or if you’re working with agency staff. By consolidating all of your employee management for your warehouse onto one digital platform, you can easily see who is working and when. You can also review any gaps and fill them. If you allow your staff the chance to review the schedule digitally, then they can get instant updates on any changes. You could also try to incorporate holidays, sick days and other absences into this system to save you even more time when managing your warehouse’s staff.
Provide Comprehensive Training Guides And Keep Reviewing Them
If you are working with a lot of agency staff, or have to onboard many new team members in 2022, then it’s important that you provide them with the training they need. If your training documents are outdated, then it’s vital that you review them promptly and add any important information. These documents can be used to inform your training sessions and ensure that everyone working in your warehouse has the knowledge they need to do their jobs effectively. You could also consider adding these documents to your warehouse employee portal with your digital timesheets and working schedules. This will allow your staff to stay up to date with any changes in procedure and improve internal communication. It will also mean that your staff can feel more confident when going about their daily tasks.
Make The Most Of Past Warehouse Data
Data from previous years could be used to inform your future warehouse management strategy and processes. For example, if there is a specific time of year when your warehouse is busiest, and then other times when it is regularly less hectic, you could use this information to plan your future staffing and additional work. During times when your warehouse historically has fewer orders, you can make the most of your extra time to engage in practices such as staff training, warehouse cleaning and equipment maintenance. By scheduling these tasks for quieter times, you can reduce the strain on your warehouse team during busy parts of the year. You can also ensure that you have additional staff during parts of the year that are usually busier and that they have the support they need to work effectively. This approach will help you to optimise your time and resources throughout the year.
Improve Ongoing Stock Management
Undertaking an annual, bi-annual or quarterly stock take for your warehouse can take a lot of time and reduce your productivity for several days or even longer. As such, you should try to manage stock better throughout the year so that stock takes are easier and required less frequently. Using your automated stock management tools and barcodes, you can improve your rotation and make stock takes easier. You can also try to conduct smaller stock takes in specific departments every time you and your team pick items from those shelves to save time and reduce the chances of stock management error. Mistakes can lead to time-consuming investigations and challenges for your team, so by doing everything in your power to avoid them you can save your team time in both the long and the short term. You can also improve your general warehouse effectiveness.
Keep Adapting And Finding New Ways To Innovate
Once you have streamlined your warehouse practices and feel that you are now running an efficient workplace, you might feel that you’ve done everything you can. Complacency can lead you to future issues, as your warehouse and business will constantly evolve over time. As a result, it’s important that you adapt and continue to explore new ways to improve your warehouse. Stay up to date with new warehouse management tips, tricks and ideas by reading industry-focused magazines and blogs. If you don’t like reading or don’t feel you have the time, then you could try listening to a podcast for warehouse managers. These shows will offer you insight and ideas that could be beneficial and help to inspire you to continue to adapt your warehouse over the coming years.
Proactivity is always an important factor when you’re managing a warehouse, but it is particularly crucial in 2022. The coming year will be challenging for every business throughout the UK’s supply chain sector. As such, every leader in every niche across the UK’s supply chain needs to adapt and streamline their organisation’s processes to ensure their ongoing success and survival. While you can’t avoid any challenges or hardships, you can save yourself and your team time and hard work. These tips should help you to work out ways to achieve an effective warehouse management process, both now and moving forward. While you might have to adapt these ideas to suit your warehouse’s unique requirements, they should be a useful jumping-off point to help you start streamlining your warehouse and lead it to further success in 2022 and further into the future.