Warehouse managers, and their operatives, tend to face the same sorts of problems no matter what their industry sector is. Of course, warehouses that are used to store very heavy and bulky items have issues that ones that are only used for consumer products or components don’t tend to have.
Nevertheless, there are very many common factors when it comes to running a warehouse efficiently. And, for many logistics and warehouse managers, the solutions to these problems can be learned from others and applied in new ways.
Is There Enough Space?
A good example of a commonly found warehouse problem is one of adequate space. Warehouses, like any other part of a supply chain, are most efficient when they are used at capacity – or something close to it. Warehouses that have acres of spare space represent a cost, after all. Therefore, organising the available storage space in as rational way as possible helps to make the most efficient running of the warehouse concerned.
Putting items that are picked together regularly in close proximity to one another is a good idea. If you have three or four items that you need to supply a commonly placed order, for instance, storing them near to one another in the warehouse makes sense because it saves time.
For items that are quick moving, ones that are picked very regularly, then store them in the part of the warehouse that has the most room for operatives to get in and out of safely – especially if you use forklift trucks. Remember that Forklift operators need clear lines of sight so space in busy parts of the warehouse is essential.
Conversely, items that are seldom selected can be stored in parts of the warehouse that are more difficult to get to and accessed less often.
Data and Stock Information
Inaccuracy with stock is one of the biggest problems facing warehouse managers. Inaccuracy with data takes various forms. This could include such things as incorrect quantities of stock, poorly kept records of storage locations, inaccurate pricing data and operatives who fail to identify stock correctly.
Even the most efficiently run warehouses experience inaccurate records of one or more products, from time to time. This occurs commonly with retail companies who find that their stock is always on the move. An item that is stowed in the wrong part of a warehouse can get overlooked when picking from an inventory.
Until the item is found, this can lead to an inaccurate count of the inventoried item. Regular stock checks, conducted by operatives who really know what they are looking at, helps to account for such inaccuracies and improve the efficiency of the warehouse.
When warehouse stock is handled multiple times it tends to augment the risk of damage. Each time stock gets touched or moved, by hand or by a forklift, it becomes more likely to be damaged. Getting your operatives to work efficiently, by training them well, helps with this.
Of course, fast-working operatives are desirable but getting them to work safely and diligently also helps to reduce the costs associated with stock damage. Faulty stock that has been damaged in a warehouse can still often be sold. However, this is often at bargain prices that are heavily discounted – even if the goods are fine and the damage is only to the protective packaging. Maintaining the highest possible sale price of the warehouse’s stock is best achieved by not damaging it – when handling it – in the first place.
Another common warehousing problem is when issues occur when new stock arrives without the correct labels and barcodes. Correcting for these mistakes is time consuming, so identifying the root cause of such errors should be on the minds of all warehouse managers.
Erin Warbrook is a freelance writer from Perth specialising in OH&S, auto and health topics. She spoke to the equipment geniuses at United Forklift and Access Solutions for tips.