Business is growing. Shipments from suppliers are rolling in. Customer orders are rolling out. You’re feeling great about this company you’ve built, but when you go to close out for the day, your warehouse and office look like something out of a war movie. (And not the kind with a romantic plot alongside. Just pure, messy, agonizing war.)
Purchase order slips are scattered on your desk, cardboard boxes are piling up in a neglected corner along with other “to-be-recycled” items, and unlabeled boxes are still sitting at the backdoor, because who has time to deal with that? Just another midnight rush to organize everything, right? No big deal. Who needs sleep!
Let’s put an end to that war zone, and create some harmony in that warehouse of yours. You have a company to run and the last thing you need to be doing is playing cleanup. This type of stress is taxing to your mental energy, which directly affects the growth of your business.
Here are some tips on how to keep a more tidy warehouse that will lead to a more optimized operations system and a less grumpy you.
1. Start at the very beginning.
Sometimes when you receive major shipments from suppliers, it’s easy to give it the ‘ol, “Eh. Let’s just take care of this later.” Put an end to the procrastination and take the time to breakdown the boxes, shove them in the recycling bin, un-package your products and stock them accordingly. This is a habit you must commit to. If your shipment comes around the same time each day/week, then schedule it on your calendar. Putting it off will only allow it to become an even larger beast, waiting for your attention.
If you don’t have time to stock them on your shelves, another thing I used to do when working in retail was I’d take all the boxes and line them up. Open each one and see what is included. From there, make a mini stocking pile in each box. Knowing where they will eventually be housed, put close-proximity items together, so that you can then pull them to the correct spot on your warehouse floor and stock them quickly.
2. Make best selling products more accessible.
If you’re managing a warehouse, then you know that optimizing your picking process is key to developing a more efficient system. Keep your best selling products near the shipping area to avoid a scavenger hunt that leads to a major slowdown in fulfillment. Keep them clearly labeled. Get them out quickly.
3. Analyze your stock layout.
If you’re constantly shipping certain items together, wouldn’t it make sense to place them together in your warehouse? Each seller is going to be different, but if you analyze your order data and have statistical support showing that Product A is most often ordered with Product B, then decrease picking time by placing these products more closely together.
4. Eliminate traffic barriers.
This may seem like an obvious one, but be sure that you are constantly keeping things out of the main traffic area. It can be easy to put off organizing old shipping boxes or unpacking items, but if you keep stacking large barriers that keep you from fulfilling orders, you’re going to have a major backup. No one likes rush hour traffic blocks. Free your employees from captivity and release them from immobile stock rooms!
5. Keep your warehouse team informed and encourage feedback.
Don’t underestimate your warehouse employees and their role in the success of your overall sales goals. Their speed and dedication on executing various warehouse processes can make or break your bottom line. Ask for input on how you can improve operations. They spend the majority of their waking hours in your warehouse. They spend more time with your products then they do their own families. Keep an open, healthy line of communication going and never undervalue their feedback. This is their livelihood - learn to trust their instincts.
6. Document processes and continuously train.
As you manage more team members, it is essential to document ongoing processes so that everyone is on the same page. If you’re using some type of technology to manage and track inventory, it is likely that this technology will have ongoing updates. When these updates occur, be sure to spend some time educating your team on the updates and how it affects their day-to-day routines.
Dealing with a large quantity of goods can be quite stressful. If you’re concerned at all that your operational efforts aren’t working, make sure you maintain a high level of transparency with your team. Keep cycle count dates accessible and show your team that accuracy is a top priority. It’s all about communication.
Have some of your own warehouse strategies? I’d love to hear from you! Share in the comments below or reach out to us at @StitchLabs on Twitter.