These are some challenging times, indeed. A serious viral pandemic sweeping our countries, and all of the challenges arising because of it. First, before we go any further with a blog post about keeping your warehouse up-and-running is this: follow all guidance from your local, state, and federal emergency services and health departments.
Here are three things that you can immediately implement in your warehouse to insure productivity and survival: de-prioritize your value add programs, think silos, and concentrate on picking and shipping.
Value Add Programs
Value Add Programs are the activities your conducting to get your warehouse from simply productive to attain operational excellence across your entire facility. For most facilities, these practices require more people (who will become even more scarce, as isolation and self-quarantine increase), time (excellence is an investment of time), and administrative monitoring.
An easy way to identify which of your programs are Value Add is to think about the essential mission of the distribution facility: shipping product out to destinations – whether B2B or B2C, and curtailing or modifying any programs that does not make that physical process faster. Some examples of valuable programs that may be curtailed are: Cycle Counting, Inventory Consolidation, Audit and Validation Programs (unless required in your industry).
Here are some ways to modify those processes, and fold their efforts lightly into other operations to still accomplish a portion of them, but focus them where they can be less impactful.
Cycle Counting: reduce your inventory control (cycle counting) to only include your fastest velocity movers or your highest cost items. That should reduce the number of people and time needed to accomplish this very important program, but will still allow focus on the items that need focus. You might also have a second count on pallet or case quantities for those same items during the Receiving process, conducting an immediate validation in lieu of a count of those items at rest on a shelf.
Thinking in Silos
Thinking in silos doesn’t mean that managers should view their warehouse as processes and teams who cannot share resources or goals, but does force management teams to begin every day with the thought that every process must feed directly to fulfillment, and a process slowing down fulfillment must be addressed with people and effort with urgency – even at the cost of other KPIs. Normal operations allow for an understanding that work in a specific warehouse process ebbs and flows, and “small” changes to a team can normalize work across a facility over the course of a day. In an environment where siloes are effectively used, people are moved to teams, and that team focuses on immediately solving issues that direct shipping. For most of us trained in modern warehousing, our normal approach to operations is to push orders out the door – we even will use that vernacular when describing our day: “…we pushed 2500 orders out today.”
In this instance, think about your demand as pulling orders out of your door. Every movie you’ve ever seen where a space ship decompresses explosively? This approach is highly productive, but isn’t measured against efficiency; rather, it is measured against fulfillment as the only measure of success.
Concentrate on Picking and Shipping
When labor is reduced, when demand spikes, and when stability is threatened, the one thing that doesn’t change is the need to fulfill orders. When your management team must decide which tasks to assign to their limited labor resources, default to responding to the pull of inventory to the customer. All other operations require attention and labor, but only as much as needed to meet demand. Easy examples to think about include: prioritizing Putaway tasks to only those items backordered or your fastest moving items, and assigning your receiving and Putaway resources to picking as soon as available. After demand is met (or your carriers have picked up), begin the Putaway process for staged goods on your receiving dock.
Times like these require a more focused problem solving skill set – our companies survive these times by learning to address problems by their measure of service to the customer, and other operations diminish in value until that specific need is met. With SnapFulfil's flexibility and configurability, our customers have the ability to easily meet those needs and continue to grow with the business and adapt to tough times.