Warehouses, distribution centers, transportation hubs and material handling companies all have to be efficient to make money. Every aspect of receiving, moving, storing, picking and shipping has to work together to streamline the process, reduce the cost of the operation and lower the cost of manpower to operate the facility.
There are some specific techniques and strategies that can be implemented in any warehouse to improve efficiency without a lot of cost or time. There are also more extensive retrofit types of strategies including developing new, more efficient organization of the interior, but these are going to be more costly.
For any of the material handling companies, having a top warehouse management system is the key to spotting areas of inefficiency in the system. By tracking the movement of shipments or pallets throughout the warehouse, managers can spot where time is wasted or additional and unnecessary movement of the product occurs.
Many products and types of inventory are seasonal, so it makes sense for efficiency to adjust your slotting to seasonal orders. By placing the most commonly received and shipped items closer to the physical locations where they will be received and shipped the operation of both storing and picking becomes more efficient.
The warehouse management system (WMS) in use should be able to restructure orders to correspond to the physical location of the items and if they need special handling or if they can be placed on the conveyor systems.
By organizing the orders automatically through the software, there is less wasted time, less risk of mistakes in orders, and also less risk of damage to inventory through incorrect handling.
Many material handling companies actually have very poor storage systems. They may not have adequate racking, or items placed incorrectly with current systems. For example, the most common items that are picked should not just be closest to the loading and shipping areas, but they should be between waist and shoulder height for manual picking or at ground level for palleted shipments.
These items should also be closest to conveyor systems, with the less frequently ordered items further away. This may seem basic, but it is often overlooked when placing received items and organizing the physical space.
All of these techniques limit the effort of the staff or equipment doing the picking and speeds up the processing of the popular order items. Combined with the location of these items, they will increase efficiency and decrease the time to fill an order by a noticeable and trackable amount.