3 Ways to Improve Warehouse Inefficiencies and Boost Productivity

hero-michael3.jpgAn unorganized warehouse is more than just an eyesore - it’s a liability to your organization’s operations, customer experience, and ultimately, bottom line. It’s no secret that efficient processes boost productivity, especially as your business scales.

Before you take the time to assess how efficiently your warehouse is running, consider an operations audit to qualitatively and quantitatively measure what’s working and what isn’t. From cost of space and utilities to employee efficiency and whether or not your processes, technology, and equipment are scalable, there’s a lot to think about before implementing new people, tools, or processes. Once you have a good idea of how things are working in your warehouse’s current state, you can consider implementing these three strategies for improving your warehouse efficiencies.

1. Empower Your Employees

While technology is constantly evolving to improve warehouse operations, it’s also important to focus on your human capital. Make sure your employees are using their time efficiently and are not performing tasks that could be automated. One way to ensure efficient time management? Incentive pay can bring the largest percentage improvement in labor productivity, especially with rising minimum wages.

Another factor to consider in ensuring a productive warehouse is investment in your frontline managers. Research online or local resources to help them manage effectively, and provide them with visibility into other aspects of your business to help them understand your merchandise, customers, vendors, etc. This exposure provides insight into your company’s big picture, and this understanding will enable them to manage more effectively and feel more connected to your mission.

2. Consider Working With a 3PL

While you’re spending time training employees and researching best practices on shipping, third party logistics (3PL) providers have systems in place that are tried and trusted by all of the other companies they serve. Third party logistics providers build their entire business model around shipping and logistics. Not only have they put more thought into it than you have, but they have best-in-breed warehouse technologies, dedicated staff, and a full-time commitment to making sure their customers’ (your) products are shipped as quickly, carefully, and efficiently as possible. It’s their business on the line when shipping issues arise.

While there isn’t a perfect formula for adding a 3PL to your workflow, we recommend looking to a 3PL partner when you are fulfilling 20-30 orders a day, or when your level of scale is becoming unmanageable. 3PLs are great for any size, in that outsourcing shipping saves you time as well as the cost of warehouse space and staff. Particularly, if you’re starting to expand nationally or globally, 3PL solutions might be a great fit for your growing business.

3. Automate Processes

Denny McKnight, a partner at a supply chain integration firm said, “People writing numbers on pads of paper or keying strings of numbers into a keyboard is a bad sign.” Running a retail business requires managing numerous complex and interdependent systems and processes, which each present their own unique challenges. These inherent challenges are compounded if you are selling across multiple sales channels and/or operating multiple warehouses, and if you’re manually inputting information that could be automated.

An inventory control solution that syncs with all of your online and in-store sales channels while also tracking incoming purchase orders and outgoing shipments will allow you to eliminate the potential for human error, letting you know exactly how much inventory you have in your warehouse(s) or brick-and-mortar(s) at any given time. Best-in-breed automated and integrated solutions will not only give you real-time stock counts, but will also centralize all your inventory and sales data to help produce insightful business reports and sales forecasting.

For more tips and ideas for increasing efficiency in your warehouse, check out Optimizing Warehouse Management, the most recent chapter in our Ultimate Guide to Scaling Your Retail Business.

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