How to Improve Warehouse Efficiency

How to Improve Warehouse Efficiency

There are around 1.5 million Americans employed in the warehousing and storage industry, and with our love of online shopping, demand for these jobs will only continue to grow. A well-run warehouse will make your company more money and provide a safe and enjoyable workplace for your employees. But how do you make sure your warehouse is running as efficiently as possible? Here are our best tips to help you out! 

Maximize the Use of Available Space

Sometimes updating the way you use your space can be hard. It’s easy to get used to doing things one way and continue on because you’re used to it. To make the best use of your warehouse space, take a good look at your current shelving, storage, and traffic flow. Here are a few ways to make better use of your warehouse:

  • Use all horizontal and vertical space. Place lighter or less frequently used items up high, which can free up space down low. 
  • Get proper storage solutions. Smaller inventory items may need bins, while larger, stackable items will be fine on open shelves. 
  • Have the right equipment for your space. If special tools are needed for one step in your process, store them in a place that’s easy to reach. 
  • Clear the aisles. It may sound simple, but ensuring that items are always out of the flow of traffic will reduce wasted time and employee frustration. 
  • Go mobile. Adding mobile carts for receiving, processing, and picking items can save your employees time and energy.

Organize Workstations

Have you ever had to sift through a bucket of unorganized tools to find the one thing you needed all the way at the bottom? It can take forever! Don’t put your workers through this same frustration day after day. By organizing your workstations, you can significantly increase workers’ productivity.

Use the 5S workplace organization method to break this big task down into smaller pieces. The original Japanese words have been translated into sort, set in order, shine, standardize, and sustain.

  • Sort. Create work stations that have everything employees need for a particular task. Find a different place to store items that aren’t used for this purpose. 
  • Set in order. Make sure that each tool has its own space, and clearly label where items go so they can be easily returned. 
  • Shine. Regularly clean the workspace and inspect equipment for signs of wear. Remove broken items until they can be fixed.
  • Standardize. Make sure everyone knows their responsibilities to keep the workspace clean and functional. 
  • Sustain. Train employees on how to use and maintain the space according to the 5S methodology. 

Use Available Technology

Make sure you’re using the best technology possible for your organization and budget. For example, using warehouse management system (WMS) software can completely streamline your warehouse operations. Use barcodes or radio frequency identification (RFID) to increase picking accuracy and reduce mistakes. Wearable technology like smart glasses or two-way audio headsets, can get workers the information they need to do their job instantly. 

Focus on Lean Principles

Lean management is just a system in which companies focus on eliminating waste to increase productivity and value. To create the most efficient warehouse possible, you’ll want to focus on cutting out waste, whether it’s in the form of time, effort, space, or materials. 

For example, you should avoid ordering excess stock unless you can store it in a separate location. The clutter you create by ordering too much inventory to store properly will end up costing you in workers’ time and energy spent dealing with it. 

Streamline Systems for Productivity

Take a look at the management systems you have in place for inventory, receiving, putting away, picking, and shipping. Where could you make changes to shorten the process? A great way to find out is to ask your employees for feedback. They are the ones carrying out these processes after all. Make sure to train your employees when you update something so that there’s no confusion in the warehouse. 

It also helps to place items strategically. Store the most popular items at the front of the warehouse and keep items frequently sold together close to each other. As buying patterns change, you will need to rearrange your shelves. Use magnetic vinyl for labeling shelves to make this process as easy as possible. 

Improve Safety

shutterstock_1875694372-scaledMost injuries in warehouses result from falls and slips, lifting or reaching, and material handling or forklift accidents. These incidents can cost companies thousands of dollars in medical bills, workers compensation, and lost labor. 

To make your warehouse the safest place it can be, remove any unnecessary hazards as soon as possible. Make sure to provide proper signage when employees must use extra caution. This can include marking forklift paths and indicating when safety gear is needed. 

Also make sure to provide enough safety training for your employees. This can include training on how to:

  • Lift by bending the knees instead of bending at the waist.
  • Use safety gear.
  • Operate machinery. 

If you take the right steps to make your warehouse as safe as possible, your workers won’t need to take time off for workplace related injuries. A safer workplace will also improve employee loyalty and productivity.  

Give Workers Incentives for Productivity

Creating a program for extra pay based on productivity can be a great way to motivate your employees. Recognize your best workers with verbal praise, service awards, or preferred parking. This helps boost morale and gives employees new goals to work towards. 

Print Your Own Labels and Signs

From organizing work stations to marking aisles and caution areas, you’ll need a fair amount of labels and signs to keep your warehouse running like clockwork. With a VnM SignMaker from Cobra Systems, you can print exactly what you need when you need it. You’ll be able to make your own self-adhesive labels, magnetic labels, barcodes, safety signs, facility signs, durable floor markers, and more. Contact us today to get started!