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How to Optimise Productivity in a 21st Century Warehouse

How to Optimise Productivity in a 21st Century Warehouse

Let’s face it: you only have to look at what Amazon is doing these days and you’ll know that without upgrading certain aspects of your warehouse, you won’t keep up with industry demands. Especially if your warehouse is part of a supply chain, you need to make sure you can operate optimally.

The good news is that any small change can make a big influence and we’ll talk more about that below. Whether you invest in a new pallet wrapping machine or simply upgrade your system software, you’ll be surprised at what you can achieve. But the important thing is that you start rethinking your current operations.

Change can be daunting, right? To help you get momentum, let’s share some of the best ways to optimise productivity in your warehouse this year.

Consider Technology

Your first wake up call may be to realise how many resources exist these days. Are you using them optimally yet?

Invest in Equipment

As mentioned above, upgrading to new equipment rather than using the old ones is an excellent start. New technology, whether it’s a labeling machine, vehicles or computers will get the work done faster and speed is EVERYTHING. It’s the wise long term investment modern warehouses need.

Outsource to Experts

Of course, you may not always have the capital to invest in the latest equipment. Or you may not have the skills to do a task as well as your competitors. This is when you reach out to third party service providers to help you get the job done.

You don’t want one element of your work to tarnish your reputation. Call in the experts, even for tasks such as marketing, so you can focus on getting the job done.

Consider the Site

The next aspect to think of is your premises. There’s a lot you can do that may be slowing down your process.

Your Layout

How much time did you spend finding the best way to perform your tasks when you first started your business? If it’s been a while since you evaluated your processes, rethink! Even by redesigning your picking path you can boost your productivity. For example, always make sure your picking ends at the wrapping zone so no time is lost transferring goods there.

Your Process

Talk to experienced warehouse managers and you’ll pick up on simple habits they teach their staff.:

  • Bin according to popularity so most of your picking happens in one zone. Regularly check your numbers to determine the popular products.
  • Plan to pick large items and bulk cases last, so they don’t slow down the picking team during the rest of the process.
  • Remind your teams that the first thing that goes onto the delivery vehicle must be the last item on the day’s delivery schedule.

The tips seem logical but remember it’s a manager’s responsibility to ensure the right processes are used at all times. Team members don’t always realise that what they view as shortcuts can waste time in the long run.

Consider Your Team

We mentioned staff above: they’re key to your success.

You need to make sure you revisit this topic regularly. Even by just adding one staff member or someone leaving the team, the whole dynamic can change. You’ll need to learn how to keep the team delivering their full potential.

Here are aspects you can look at.

Measure Morale

No matter what industry you’re in, when people feel the following about their work environment, productivity soars:

  • They’re safe and cared for
  • Workers feel respected
  • There’s a positive atmosphere and report between team members
  • Workers are empowered to perform their tasks efficiently

From your perspective you may think everything is in order but do regular anonymous questionnaires or ask for feedback on working conditions when everyone’s together. Don’t just listen but implement suggestions so they know they’re not ignored. To build relationship between everyone you can organise team building days.

Teach Them Kaizen

Many leading companies incorporate Kaizen strategies on their warehouse floors. This is based on the belief that you’ll never have a perfect process and continuous improvement is how you achieve success.

Teach your team to identify areas of waste or tasks that can be done better. When you and your team join in the pursuit of becoming the best, you’ll improve now AND in the long term.

Last Thoughts

Most probably, while reading through these tips, you’ve already identified which area in your warehouse needs change the most urgently. Remember, don’t see the need for change as a weakness in your department. The industry changes all the time; you simply need to challenge yourself to reinvent on a continuous basis, so you keep up to date and able to impress your clients.

Now, where will you start?

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Ruth Doyle