Lead Forensics

Six primary warehouse processes and how to optimise them

When it comes to a warehouse operation, there are a total of six primary processes involved: picking, packing, shipping, receiving, putting away and storage. These are the functions that make up the day-to-day working life within a warehouse.

Therefore, if you want to make your warehouse business more streamlined and efficient, it is those six areas that you will have to look to improve upon. Throughout this article, we will be taking a look at all of them in turn, identifying what each one is about and looking at how it can be optimised to make your company run more effectively.

Read on to learn more.

1. Receiving

We will start by looking at the receiving process, as it is generally identified as the first one in a warehouse and could also be considered the most important of them all.

Receiving is the process whereby items to be stored in your warehouse are delivered to it and you assume responsibility for them. Without it, you would have an empty facility and your company would be out of business.

For this process to be carried out correctly, it is necessary to ascertain that you have received the right goods, in an undamaged state, in the agreed quantities, and at the correct time. If any of those points is wrong it can affect your ability to complete orders on time, which in turn will do real harm to the reputation of your company. From the moment you take receipt of the goods and sign the forms involved, you have accepted responsibility for them, so getting it right is essential.

Optimisation Methods

You can optimise this process by making sure goods do not build up too much at your receiving docks. Avoiding that kind of accumulation due to delays will make it easier to spot problems like damaged or wrong stock before you take receipt.

Installing conveyor belts at these receiving docks and investing in pallet trucks will improve the overall speed and efficiency. Dimensioning systems for pallets and parcels will record their dimensions and weight automatically, reducing the likelihood of receiving wrong amounts. It is also worth looking at implementing dock schedulers and workforce management systems to make sure that you always have enough people working the receiving docks for the amount of stock due to be delivered.

2. Putting stock away

This is the process that comes immediately after receiving. It is where the goods your warehouse has just taken delivery of are moved from the receiving area to the appropriate part of the warehouse for storage. Not putting goods in the most suitable places will reduce the efficiency of your business, because it will add to the time needed both to put them away and then to pick them later down the line. The goals behind optimising the putting away process are to make storage quicker, maximise your available storage space, minimise worker travel times and make picking simpler.

As you can see, how well this particular process is managed and carried out has a number of consequences for your company, so let’s look at how you can improve upon it in the future.

Optimisation Methods

Software is available that can be purchased and installed on the computer systems for your business that will make putting away goods in the best places quicker and more efficient. Consider investing in space and slotting management software, for instance. These solutions will automate the work of identifying the best and most appropriate parts of the warehouse storage section for each set of goods.

In turn, that will make it much easier for those members of staff who have been assigned to putting away goods to do so quickly in a way that lets your business make the most effective use of the available space. Equipment like forklifts will enable staff to move large amounts of stock more rapidly and easily, while there are mobile applications that can help them quickly find the right storage areas to put items away in. Both of these methods will reduce the time spent on travel to and from storage areas.

3. Storage

Process number three refers to the task of keeping goods in the most optimal storage section of your warehouse. The storage process should be set up in a way that reduces time spent by employees on moving items from the receiving docks for storage and picking them for dispatch, as well as making the best possible use of the warehouse space at your disposal.

Optimisation Methods

Tracking the key performance indicators is central to optimising the storage process. Installing software that will work out how you are using your available space at the moment will help you to identify areas for improvement. Implementing the correct system for the size and scale of your operation is also important. A constantly updated online inventory with tracking software installed on phones will help employees to save time when putting items in storage.

Then there is the matter of equipment. Heavy duty steel trolleys fitted with castors will enable employees to move large amounts of stock more easily and efficiently. Toughened steel shelving will make it possible to store even large and heavy items and leave them clearly visible to employees.

4. Picking

This process is closely related to storage, because efficient storage procedures will make locating and picking items for dispatch a lot easier for your workforce. Picking is the process of finding stock that needs to be sent out for orders and transporting it to the dispatch areas of the warehouse. It is reckoned to account for more than half of the overall operating costs for most warehouses, so optimisation should target cutting these costs by improving accuracy and efficiency.

Optimisation Methods

One option for improving both speed and accuracy among your picking staff is to equip them with tools like mobiles apps that provide them with lists of items to be picked and let them scan for each item, thus reducing search times. Equipping them with strong steel picking trolleys with castors will make it possible to collect lots of items in one journey, reducing travel times while enabling them to transport those items to packing areas in much less time.

Finally, putting in place a system whereby each employee picks items in a particular section of the warehouse will also cut the time spent on moving from one part to another. Having up-to-date records of where all goods are stored will help with that too.

5. Packing

Once items that are due to be sent out as orders have been picked, they must be packed ready for shipment. The packing process means preparing them and keeping comprehensive order records. However, it should also ensure that items are not damaged and that they are packed in a way that keeps packaging costs to a minimum for your company. Furthermore, optimisation should aim to cut the amount of time spent on the packing of items for dispatch, as that will also lower costs for your firm.

Optimisation Methods

Putting in place a system for the packing process that will factor in all the information the employees responsible for it need is the key to successful optimisation. That information includes the weight and the dimensions of each order to be packed for delivery. These will determine how much packaging material is required to prevent the goods from being damaged while also keeping the packaging expenses as low as possible. Software is available that has been created for this purpose and that would make a wise investment for your company.

It should be accompanied by the purchase of good-quality packing tables though. These need to be made of solid material like steel and laminates to be able to bear heavy loads. If part of your goal is to make the packing process faster and more efficient, the tables should be fitted with everything a packer will need in a single place. That ranges from rolls of tape to a computer monitor and keyboard. This will save them having to move from one area of the warehouse to another when packing.

6. Shipping

The last of the six primary warehouse processes is shipping. This is the part where the stock leaves the warehouse and heads out to the customers who have ordered it. Getting it right means making sure the order loaded for dispatch is correct and that it is shipped to the appropriate customer. It must be shipped using the right method of transport and be received by the customer on the agreed date (or within the agreed timescale) and in undamaged condition. The goal is to accomplish all of those targets while minimising time and money waste.

Optimisation Methods

Workforce management systems will ensure that you have enough workers to cope with the orders that need to be shipped at any period. You want to avoid having too fee, which will put workers under pressure and lead to errors. Too many can be just as bad though, because they will get in the way of each other and create delays. It will also be an inefficient use of your workforce.

Providing all workers handling shipping with mobile apps will enable them to stay on top of the situation regarding orders as it evolves in real-time. You should also make sure you have the correct vehicles, from forklifts to delivery trucks, for this process.

Here at Steely Products, we make high-grade tubular steel warehouse trolleys, tables and other equipment to maximise warehouse efficiency. Contact us or place an order using the form below.

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