Inventory management has become the linchpin of any retail business. This makes your warehouse design and procedures an essential cog in being able to deliver products efficiently and on-time. Therefore, nailing the setup of a new warehouse on the first try is critical to business success. The question is, what is the right way to go about it?
"Accuracy and efficiency can often seem like two competing goals."
Warehouse managers and staff are faced with two competing goals - accuracy and efficiency. Ideally, both need to be absolute priorities, but in reality, it can feel like one often comes at the expense of another. Picking and packing orders correctly every time is possible, but will typically eat up valuable time. And in a world where retailers need to be able to ship products with less than 24 hours’ notice, every second is valuable.
To meet these goals, many companies are adopting nimble software solutions such as a SaaS WMS solution to optimize inventory, space and resources in the warehouse. But, although a best of breed, cloud WMS will drive efficient processes, optimal efficiency and productivity also relies on getting the basics right from the get go. If you’re setting up a new warehouse, consider the following to ensure you’re getting the most value out of your new facility.
Warehouse setup is beholden to physical and practical constraints. For example, if one product can be picked and packed quickly, there's no sense in placing it in the same line as a more complex product. Think about the minute details of picking specific products and tailor the space around those needs. Fast-moving items will need their own area, and must have ample space so that staff can efficiently move items in and out.
With this in mind, the pick-walk sequence needs to allow fluid movement of people and products. As pickers drop off orders to be packed, they will need to be situated in their own aisles with pack stations at the end. Making the process as linear as possible will optimize speed and reduce errors.
|Running a great warehouse is all about bringing order to the chaos of picking, packing and shipping.|
Once the picking workflow has been pinned down, it's time to move on to packing. Pack stations should be placed in a sensible location down the line from picking areas to ensure a seamless transition - the longer the distance workers need to travel between tasks, the less efficient they become. Then, workers should have space in which a variety of boxes and other packing materials can be stored for easy access. In larger warehouses, picking and packing areas are often connected by a conveyor belt that can quickly move picked items down the line to be boxed. Keep in mind the product mix and dimensions that your business uses to conserve packing materials and make the process easier for shipping.
Out with the old
If you're moving from an old warehouse, take this opportunity to update aging equipment as well. Even something as basic as new racks designed for your new space will let you optimize some much needed real estate.
It's also crucial that managers don't overlook logistics updates. Be sure to run tests of shipping labels with new addresses or pickup locations well in advance of opening the warehouse for business.
Ask an expert
Finally, once everything is in place, schedule a walkthrough with a consultant to get an unbiased perspective on how you've set up your warehouse. Sometimes, an outside point of view can provide insight you may have missed having been so involved in your warehouse set up.