Strategies for boosting warehouse productivity
Increasing warehouse productivity is a top priority for warehouse managers. An increase in productivity means smoother scheduling, more efficient production times and, essentially, a higher return for their company.
With so many areas to focus on, such as labour, staff, workload, schedules and third-party vendors, it can be overwhelming to know which areas to start with.
To make matters more complicated, changing too many systems at once can also lead to confusion which will only slow down productivity instead of improve it.
We find that the best methods to follow are those that have been tried and tested. So, below, we have listed some top productivity advice from our warehouse experts, explaining the most effective ways to increase warehouse productivity:
Invest in a warehouse manager – By investing in an experienced, proactive and formally trained warehouse manager, you have somebody who understands the importance of improving efficiency full time. From maintaining good team morale to setting up inventory control and efficiency systems, you will have the peace of mind knowing somebody is always looking out for new ways to improve your processes. Having a manager ‘on the floor’ reassures conscientious employees and keeps those less inclined towards higher productivity levels, on their toes.
Implement new procedures – Do your research when it comes to procedures. Are there any ways to improve or simplify yours, are there any ways to save time? Are you guilty of doing things a certain way because ‘they have always been done that way?’ Look at everything as if through ‘fresh eyes’. By updating your procedures you can save effort, time and money too. Implementing new procedures is one of the most cost-effective ways to improve your productivity.
Harness new technologies and equipment – New technologies are being developed every day to help speed up and improve warehouse systems. Technology can improve the overall performance and lower the overall labour cost, making tasks much easier and faster than ever before. Although it takes some initial investment, it is often well worth the return.
Ensure your equipment is operating effectively and if necessary, and if budget allows, purchase new, high quality equipment (for example forklifts and computer systems). New equipment will run more efficiently and will be less prone to breaking down. There is also likely to be a knock-on effect in terms of staff morale whose productivity is likely to increase because you have demonstrated that you care about the business as well as providing the best tools for them to work with.
Focus on cost reduction at every point – Do you know your critical productivity and costs on shipped orders? Do you know your cost per pallet or consignment? By establishing a baseline you can work out where you can make cost reductions. Look at any errors too, how much do the most common types of errors cost? What can you do to avoid them? Saving costs makes your warehouse more profitable and more productive.
Use the maximum existing vertical storage space – More often than not, warehouses have a lot of vertical space that goes unused. To maximise efficiency, go up rather than out. Use the maximum existing vertical space, compress shelf levels, and narrow aisles inwards. Make the most of all the space you have.
Track your metrics – Key metrics vary by company, but they are usually quick and easy to measure. You may want to break your metrics down to make this process easier. Look at your productivity – how do you measure it and is it made up of several different metrics? Break it down and ask yourself ‘What is my baseline?’ And ‘What is my target?’
Less is more in terms of tracking your metrics. It is better to have just a small number of significant metrics – perhaps no more than five. Communicating these metrics clearly and regularly (so hourly, rather than weekly for example), is essential if you want to maximise the improvements using metrics can make.
Ask each member of staff personally – With so many different staff members running so many different roles, ask them to start thinking about how they might work better. Encourage people to come to you and discuss their ideas for improvement. Make your team feel valued. Ensure their working conditions are safe and comfortable. Pay a fair wage, above the industry average if possible. If pay rises aren’t possible due to budget restrictions find other ways to incentivise and reward efficient and conscientious employees.
A productive warehouse is a top priority for good reason, it makes a world of difference to a bottom line.
If you have warehousing or distribution questions, talk to us today and judge for yourself whether we’re the right 3PL, distribution and warehousing services provider for you. We think you’ll say yes.
To discuss your warehousing and dedicated transport requirements, or if you have any questions about Palletline, please call Mervyn Jeffery today on 01353 648222.