Understanding The Steps For Proper Warehouse Organization
8 Warehouse Organization Ideas Your Company Should Implement
Distributors and wholesalers have one thing in common; they have to work hard to ensure their warehouses are not only properly designed, but also well maintained and organized. All this is besides having to deal with issues that come with running a warehouse such as ensuring all orders go through and ensure an orderly movement of cargo and freight.
Order is the key to an efficiently running warehouse. As long as everything is done in an organized and orderly manner, you can then be assured all will be well. Nothing, however, frustrates more in warehouses than seeing the orders being packed incorrectly or even moved to the wrong pick up point. The warehouse is the last stop goods make before they can be delivered to customers. These goods need to be handled properly, and most importantly, orders followed to the letter to eliminate the risk of wrong deliveries, thus a smoother workflow and improved customer experience.
How do you keep the warehouse organized? Where/how do you start? How will you be able to maintain it? Most warehouse managers do not have answers to these questions. This, however, doesn’t mean there are no possible solutions for these. Just like spring cleaning and overhauling a property, keeping a warehouse organized can be a daunting task. This article outlines a few simple ways to address this issue.
It all starts with as simple as treating the warehouse as your home. It’s common sense. While you might not see an increase in profits or instant cost savings, everything will start flowing as it should. This, of course, is as long as you have the motivation and drive to see the warehouse doing better.
A sequential list isn’t necessarily required to make all this possible. Considering your warehouse already has impeccable design and layout, all you need to do is work on a solution to ensure goods are received quickly and efficiently with no delays. Look at it as a home makeover – although everything seems disorganized, it will all start making sense and falling into place as soon as you take on the first step. Here is how to do it.
1. Re-Evaluate The Warehouse Floor Plan
The floor plan or layout needs to make sense for everything to work out. Approach this in the same way you would with a new home. The floor plan determines whether you will buy or rent the space. Some of the questions you’ll find asking yourself include; is the space enough? Are the rooms placed sensibly? Is the house too dark or do you need to have bulbs on all the time, etc.? If the layout is ok, you can then go ahead and buy/rent the house; if not, you then have to look for another home.
The same logic applies when assessing the warehouse layout. Check to see if work benches, equipment, tools, shelves, tables, and docking stations are logically placed. Will the warehouse staff be able to access them with ease? The only way you can achieve a safe and smooth workflow is if all these are conveniently placed. Nothing, even the equipment, should get in anyone’s way.
The perfect warehouse should:
- Make it easy to access goods
- Lessen handling of products
- Allow storage flexibility
- Create enough working space
- Make maximum use of the available space
Almost every warehouse has an existing scale drawing or plan. Use the blueprint to determine if the current layout or setup is the best for the business. Of course, each company is different and has varying requirements. Take all these into consideration when assessing the current layout.
The next step will be to evaluate the layout in person. Pretend you are one of the warehouse employees, say the warehouse clerk. Walk around the warehouse and play the various roles the clerk would be required to play. Check to see if the layout favors smooth workflow and especially in physical work areas. Remember to do this during a slow day, such as the weekend.
Take a Closer Look at Work Areas
The most common work areas for a simple warehouse are:
The work areas need to be well-defined to create a safer working environment. An excellent example of this is the production, receiving, and packing areas that need to be as far apart as possible. There also should be marked paths for forklifts, pallet jacks, or conveyors. The main office should have a direct view of all the parts/sections of the warehouse and processes involved in each.
Perform Actual Work Tasks
With the work areas defined, try getting work done to see how many steps it will take to perform one task. Start the task from:
- Receive goods
- Add goods to inventory
- Prepare orders
- Ship orders out
With the collected data ready, you can then move to the final inspection stage; talk to the warehouse staff. Get to learn what annoys them about the daily workflow, areas they think should be improved, how things can be done differently, etc. Most employees will have plenty to share about these, be sure to take notes. The employees might provide insights you never even thought of, insights that could improve processes significantly.
2. Install Heavy-duty Shelves And Racks
When you move into a new house, the very first thing you do is get everything in its perfect spot. This means shelves, drawers, and any other storage options you have. Having extra shelves or cabinets installed is always a welcome idea, especially if you have more items to keep. Stronger shelves are installed in the garage (to hold heavier stuff) while walk-in wardrobes come in handy in bedrooms.
Use the same approach for the warehouse. Choose the appropriate storage options for each work area. Make the available space work for you but bringing in storage racks, heavy-duty shelves, bins, etc. make sure these are correctly installed based on the space and need. Use matching storage bins and shelves for your warehouse.
Choose shelves that best describe your business or work area.
- Manufacturing: Production space and equipment take the topmost position here. Have heavy-duty shelves bins (with hoppers around them) appropriately positioned. Be sure to leave plenty of space around various equipment and workbenches. Have pallet jacks and forklifts in mind when installing these.
- Simple Manufacturing: Proper shelving is required here. Assembling stations, therefore, take priority in simple manufacturing. That said, place bins with hoppers around them to make accessing parts and raw materials easy. Plenty of space will be needed around workstations.
- Traditional Inventory: Both heavy-duty and light-weight shelving will be needed here. With lots of inventory stored here, you will need plenty of these for your stock. Shelves and bins will come in handy for these. Be sure to leave enough space for picking and stocking between aisles.
Whatever your business is, vertical space can be used to maximize storage areas. Stackable shelf bins and tall shelving units should save you lots of floor space in the warehouse.
3. Have The Warehouse Inventory Organized
Back to your new home. With the new shelves in place, the next task will be to store and organize your stuff. As always, oft-used appliances and ingredients have to be kept within the arm’s reach and where you can see them. This eliminates the need to step on a stool to get salt, sugar, or oil.
For the warehouse, you need to determine which parts or goods move fast and store them in the closest drawer. The dead stock should be tucked in the farthest corner while active inventory needs to be in full view of everyone.
The ABC analysis is one of the most commonly used methods in inventory keeping. All your stock will be classified into three categories:
- The most used or profitable items account for 20% of the total stock or 80% of the total movement.
- Second-best items account for 30% of total stock, or 15% total movement.
- 50% of the entire stock or 5% is made of the least essential items
From this inventory analysis, all stock classified under category A should be placed within easy and quick access by the staff. Category B should follow while anything in Category C can be placed on the topmost shelves or deeper in the warehouse.
4. Label Everything
With the kitchen pantry organized properly with bottles and jars, the next step will be to have all the ingredients labeled well. Leaving everything unlabeled will only create a mess in the coming days. Things like sugar, baking soda, and salt could easily be mistaken. Labeling takes care of all this.
Labeling everything in the warehouse makes it easier for staff to navigate through. It also improves communication and efficiency. Don’t just mark the goods alone, all other areas such as safety hazards, work areas, racks, aisles, capacity alerts, and clearance heights should be clearly marked. Be sure to put safety signs for capacity, clearance heights, and forklifts as well.
5. Fast-track The Picking Process
The kitchen is now neatly organized and everything in its place. All the recipes have been printed and the ingredient list ready. You have marked all available ingredients and crossed out those that need to be bought. The kitchen is ready for the next task ahead.
Approach order picking in the same way. Order picking is one of the most error-prone, the costliest, and labor-intensive jobs in the warehouse. Accurate order picking holds the key to a satisfied customer. This is the reason you had everything marked out and labeled in the first place – to make picking easier. What can be done to speed up the picking process? If you have been following our checklist, you then have solved this mystery already.
- The first step is to have the warehouse reorganized to minimize travel time. Study pick locations and position bins, then establish the fastest and easiest access.
- Store the best-selling items close to the parking area. Use the ABC Analysis to identify which stock belongs to where.
- Take advantage of order picking technology. This is where automation comes into play. pick-to-light systems, hand-held RF readers, barcode scanners, and voice picking systems can help make the picking process much easier and faster. You might, however, need to dig deeper into your pockets to make this happen.
6. Hasten The Receiving Process
You may have done unpacking and settling in the new home, but problems do not end. As an online shopper, your packages keep disappearing once delivered to your doorstep. One way to curb this is by installing a narrow chute in your door, and a two-way doorbell.
Receiving goods and items is one of the most critical parts of running a warehouse. The staff must be there to ensure the right goods are received, and in an acceptable quality and the right quantity. This process can cause a snarl up in the reception bay.
What can you do to ensure inventory is received efficiently?
- Ensure there’s enough space for sorting and storing incoming inventory.
- Have a perpetual inventory system in place. The system will make it easy to get real-time information on stock count and levels.
- Automate inventory unloading with the help of conveyor belts, pallet jacks, and forklifts.
- Put on quality control measures. Have damaged items identified and labeled on the spot.
7. Perform Routine Maintenance Regularly
You have been in your new home for a year now. Keeping the house clean, garden mowed, rooms dusted, and toys off the floor is, however, proving to be hard work. You, however, come up with a cleaning schedule whereby every family member helps with the chores.
The same approach would work perfectly in the warehouse. Have all employees take responsibility for their work areas and ensure any cleanliness issues are addressed each morning. Ensure all workspaces are cleaned before closing the day, physical obstacles removed, and floors swept. Instilling this to your workers should make the workplaces much safer, hence improved productivity and efficiency.
8. Re-Evaluate The Warehouse Organization
It’s been several years since you moved in. You know every inch of the house like the back of your hand. Some appliances and furniture, however, seem tired or need to be re-arranged. You’ve also noticed the hallway is a little darker and the bathroom isn’t as functional as it used to be. It’s time for a makeover.
The warehouse needs to evolve with time. Reviewing its organizational structure and layout helps improve efficiency and productivity. The workers are your go-to option if you need information on what needs to be improved or done. Take all their concerns into consideration, and start planning for a review during slower months.
If you have been struggling to keep your warehouse organized, treating it like your home should make the process much easier. You know need to know what, how, and when something needs to be done. The first step is usually the hardest for most warehouse managers. The eight tips and steps outlined above should, however, come in handy in your future warehouse organization prospects.
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