Tips and Tricks for Warehouse Optimization
by Megan Ray Nichols
The modern warehouse is a facility that hinges on teamwork, communications and efficiency. It hasn’t always been this way, though. In the past, most warehouses were seen as dirty, unorganized and dangerous places to work.
Thanks to some popular optimization tips, the dingy workplace has been replaced by one with clean floors, greater organization and increased safety. Here are six things to consider if you’re interested in optimizing your warehouse to make it run as efficiently and safely as possible.
Aisle Width and Open Space
Past warehouse models worked with large aisles between storage racks and plenty of open floor space. While this provides ample space, it’s actually far more than necessary. Instead, some warehouses and distributors are using aisles that are less than 11 feet in width. To make up for any lost space, consider stacking pallets and storage units to 30 feet high. This is a great way to maximize space without jeopardizing the speed of operations or the safety of your workers.
For best results, it’s important to receive the most velocity out of your products. From receiving and processing raw materials in a timely manner to shipping out finished goods, it’s this timeline that will ultimately gauge your success as a warehouse manager.
A greater velocity can be achieved through effective slotting and stocking. By keeping your most-used materials or parts in a highly accessible location closer to shipping facilities, and by replenishing these stocks as needed, you’ll be able to maintain a product velocity that matches the efficiency of your warehouse crew.
Overall Travel Time
The overall amount of time it takes for raw materials or parts to make their way through your warehouse and onto store shelves is another key metric in determining your success as a warehouse supervisor. Similar to velocity, proactive managers can reduce travel time by stocking important or frequently used parts in the most accessible areas. Products with tight shipping deadlines or time constraints should also be stacked in this manner, thereby streamlining movement and overall travel time even more. ‘
Dust and Honeycombs
If you have parts or materials on your warehouse shelves that are gathering dust, it’s time to reconsider your stocking strategies. Some managers will continue to order stock regardless of its movement, but this just takes up unnecessary space. Instead, wait until you’ve sold your dusty products before ordering more — your warehouse staff will thank you.
Improper stocking can result in another problem: honeycombs. A term that refers to the gaps in between products or materials, honeycombs are unorganized, cluttered and downright confusing. Keeping stocked parts or materials in storage bins of a standard, uniform size is the ideal way to eliminate honeycombs for good.
Containers are useful in many different areas of the warehouse. The use of standardized storage containers can go a long way in optimizing the layout of your warehouse. They are commonly used to store raw materials, finished parts, shipments that are ready for distribution and even waste. However, some managers are beginning to explore alternatives, such as flexible intermediate bulk containers (FIBCs) because they can increase storage capacity and reduce operational costs. They also allow for easy storage solutions after use since they take up less space, when compressed. Boxes on the other hand, can jeopardize worker safety if stacked too high.
Warehouse Management Systems
The modern warehouse wouldn’t be complete without featuring some next-gen technology. Warehouse management systems come in many different forms and flavors. Basic features include comprehensive database capabilities, automated reporting and parts tracking. Some of the more advanced systems might include voice recognition functionality, radio frequency identification monitoring and complementary applications that target enterprise resource planning and supply chain management.
Bolstering Efficiency and Safety
There’s no denying the results of the tips and techniques outlined above. When applied to a brand new warehouse or when used to modernize an outdated facility, these tricks can go a long way in strengthening efficiency, jumpstarting productivity and increasing worker safety.
Given the highly competitive nature of most manufacturing and warehousing operations, as well as the increasing integration of technology, those who aren’t willing to make some modifications might find themselves in a rut before they even realize it. Make sure that doesn’t happen to you.