Not long after humans developed the ability to manufacture tools and started farming and setting up cities, they learned they needed to stockpile goods. Thus logistics exists as one of the earliest human inventions.
The storage, processing, and transport of goods took some different forms over the years, especially as the need to storge disparate products at workable temperature became possible. Somewhere in there, the need for superior warehouse inventory management became crucial.
Today’s warehouses need to up their game to previously unbelievable levels. Warehouses today hold an average of 25,000 SKUs (stock-keeping units) that all need to be stored and be accessible.
Learn to make the most of your stock management systems by reading through these ten hot tips. They’re so good, they are flying off the shelves.
Warehouse Inventory Management Done Better
New tech, new techniques, and new paradigms all offer options for improving management. That said, the right combination for your warehouse comes down to what works within your budget and product flow.
If something works for you, use it. If something doesn’t work for you, let it go and revisit later.
1. Eliminate Information Lag
Delays in the reporting of inventory counts cost you. Your IT systems need to be responsive and tell you when an item was picked and where in the system it is now, not a minute ago.
Information lag creates bottlenecks and confusion, especially in low product stock. Ensure you have the bandwidth necessary to process your requests and a database SQL that delivers prompt and informative reports on demand.
2. Track the Who and the What
Personnel tracking matters almost as much as product tracking. Put in systems that integrate your product scanning with individual employee IDs and devices. This keeps you in the loop not just of what is moving, but who is doing that moving.
This provides optimal feedback for enhancing and maintaining product flow. It also gives you the ability to rate and track performance fo individuals.
Data from employee numbers helps craft equipment and shelving placement and to refine employee best practices.
3. Organize and Reorganize the Floor
Speaking of employee work areas, floor organization makes or breaks a warehouse.
As demands on your product flow change, so should your floor plan. What worked six months ago may be slowing you down as client and vendor interests shift.
Keep track of your product flow numbers nad employee processing times and you will always have the data needed to make adjustments.
Remember that change comes with a buffer time while people acclimate. Constant change is worse than slow static.
4. Common Sense Locations
Cities spring up along old trails and tracks, bounded by water and resources. The same happens in a warehouse. The workflow centers around the most important elements such as the shipping dock and the picking locations.
Remember that the line moves at a pace out of the picking location to the packaging and ultimately to shipping. Place the picking locations to close to the shipping and you immediately back up the line.
Put the picking too close to the entrance and you end up with a slow line distracted by other employees.
5. Optimize Design
Not everything needs to be accessible at all times but everything needs to be accessible some times. This is the golden rule of storage.
The items that move faster need to be closer to the picking area. Items that have a bit of shelf life, can sit further back in the warehouse without causing delays.
When you have solidly engineered pallet racks, you can adjust your size and volume to accommodate each area independently. For ideas on how to deploy pallet racks effectively, read here.
6. Safety in Design
The less clutter you have in the warehouse, the more safety you build in. Too many moving parts create more areas for complications and injury.
You need to account for the necessary tools needed in a work area and restrict them to that work area.
As you already have the tech in place to track individual employees use of tools, you should know where the tools are.
Restricting tools within zones keeps you from missing scanners and box cutters over time and also keeps people from tripping over misplaced objects through the floor.
7. Quality Control as a Guide
Don’t use QC as a back-end fail-safe. Take the data from your control department and upcycle it ito the line.
If you see errors in particular areas, address the areas. Don’t rely on feedback from customers to tell you when an error was made, but be receptive to it.
Even the most nagging and busy–body of complaints can provide insight into a component of your floor and your workflow.
8. Embrace the 5s Methodology
One of those acronymn heavy methodologies developed to move large organizations through gradients. it has merit in confirming the above techniques are in their proper places.
- Sort – More about removing unnecessary objects
- Set in order – Placement and defined zones
- Shine – Clean areas prevent injury and delay
- Standardize – Learn as you go and retrain with new knowledge
- Sustain – Don’t let new practices lapse into old routine
This methodology takes into account a lot of the information already provided. It does so in a quick list way that helps focus what you have from what you think you have.
9. Save Money with New Options
The tried and true can be permuted in many ways, all of which can and will work. The next step is to pick up totally new innovations.
Cross-docking and weave picking are two of the newest options to hit warehouse management.
If you produce the volume where you ship as many things out as you take in, using the same docked vehicle to load and unload saves time.
Wave picking relies on a smaller workforce to move through a larger area to maximize outflow. It can be taxing on the labor force but beats tedium on the line.
10. Start Cyclic Counting
Yearly product counts of stock eat time and create a dreaded calendar date for employees. Everything grinds to a halt and the work shifts to finish the process.
Avoid this annual delay by counting smaller areas throughout the year. This catches shortfalls and missing product faster and makes stock counting a part of the weekly routine.
Make It Easy
Don’t forget to periodically restock on these warehouse inventory management tips. What works today may not be the way to go tomorrow. Innovate and keep your eyes open for new content right here.