In the increasingly competitive world of E-Commerce distribution and warehousing, there's a huge amount of pressure on business owners to reduce their operating costs and speed up order processing so they can maximize their revenue. Speed and efficiency are both vital aspects of running a successful warehouse, as they dictate how many orders you can process and what your costs will be for every order you ship. By ensuring your strategies are as efficient as possible, you can effectively reduce these costs — and maximise profits.
In this article, I'll discuss four ways you can improve your warehouse logistics, including tips on finding time-saving equipment, streamlining your picking strategies, organising your stock efficiently, and using warehouse management software.
Cut Down on Manual Labour and Speed Up Lifting
Travel and transport time during picking can eat into your overall costs, so providing equipment such as hydraulic lifts, forklifts, light utility vehicles, and conveyor belts can help to streamline your operations. These mechanical aids can speed up the picking process, allowing your operatives to handle more units in a shorter space of time. When used correctly by qualified staff, this sort of equipment also makes warehouse processes much safer, as it reduces the need for heavy lifting and other hazardous manual tasks. The right machinery can even improve accuracy, as mistakes can be rectified quickly and easily.
To identify any areas where machinery could improve logistics, take a look at processes that are currently taking a long time, or where bottlenecks regularly build up. Then, analyze whether a piece of equipment could be used to help your staff speed things up. While there's the initial cost of the machinery to consider, it’s likely that you will eventually be able to recoup this by handling a higher volume of orders in less time.
Maximise Available Space
If you need to make room for more stock, think about how you can build storage upwards. Installing tall storage units and lifts to safely pick and store stock can help to utilize any dead space; this way, you can maximize the total amount of stock you can hold, without needing to spend additional money expanding your premises. When planning your new storage units, remember to position less in-demand stock at the top, and prioritize high-volume items towards the lower shelves, as this will help to improve efficiency during picking.
It can also help to take a closer look at the style of shelving you use to store different types of stock. Storing smaller items in piles on large shelving units with a large capacity is an inefficient use of space, and can slow down the picking process. Items are also more likely to get lost or damaged if stored in an unnecessarily large storage unit. Instead, consider using different types of shelving to suit the size of the items.
Speed Up Processes and Improve Accuracy
Implementing a warehouse management system isn't just a useful way to monitor your stock: it can also help to improve efficiency by streamlining picking methods and routes. Many modern warehouse management systems can send automated pick-lists to your operative via an e-reader, including a prioritised route and picking method to make the process as efficient as possible. As these systems are paperless, you save money and time on printing and paper, so your warehouse will be tidier and more eco-friendly, too.
Optimise Your Workstations and Organisation Strategies
You should also look into the way that your staff areas and workstations are organized, to make sure you’re not losing valuable time to poor planning. Searching for equipment and tools wastes time and can lead to mistakes, so you'll need to create an organisation system for each workstation and use clear labelling so that everything has a set place. This way, your staff will be able to keep clutter to a minimum, reduce mistakes, and find what they need in as little time as possible.
It's also worth analyzing the way your stock is organised to see if there any areas that could be made more efficient. Store high-volume stock near to the shipping area of your warehouse, so it's easier to access. It can also help to group together stock which is frequently shipped in a single consignment (e.g. items that are commonly bought together, or which frequently ship to the same destination). This way, items that will be shipped together can be picked out in one single trip — a process known as batch or cluster picking.
When it comes to improving your warehouse logistics, speed and efficient planning are key. By implementing the strategies suggested here in your business, you should be able to streamline your operations, handle an increased number of orders, and reduce costs, meaning you stand every chance of boosting your profits.
Dan Casey is marketing manager at Penny Hydraulics.