In today’s rapidly evolving business landscape, warehouses play a crucial role in supply chain management. To stay ahead of the competition, it is essential for warehouses, regardless of their size, to adopt advanced technologies and best practices. In this article, we will explore five key practices that best-in-class warehouses follow to achieve optimal efficiency and accuracy in their operations.
- Embrace Wireless Warehouse Transaction Processing:
Wireless warehouse transaction processing has become a standard practice in large warehouse operations spanning over 50,000 square feet. However, it is surprising to note that only 30% of all warehouses in North America leverage this technology. Regardless of size, all warehouses should incorporate barcoding and wireless technologies to support paper-sparse or paperless warehouse transactions. By eliminating paper-based processes, warehouses can reduce data risks, minimize delays, and eliminate errors associated with manual documentation.
- Expand Visibility Beyond the Four Walls:
For large warehouses, reaching the next level of operational excellence involves gaining visibility into products beyond the confines of their facilities. This includes tracking inventory in the yard, during transit, at offsite third-party warehouses, and even on the shelves of their customers. Best-in-class warehouses understand the importance of real-time visibility and employ technologies that enable them to monitor the entire supply chain, providing valuable insights for decision-making and optimizing operations.
- Foster Electronic Data Sharing with Supply Chain Partners:
A common trait among best-in-class warehouses is their commitment to sharing electronic data with their supply chain partners. However, before achieving this level of collaboration, these warehouses first focus on perfecting internal data sharing processes. By adopting a “walk before you run” approach, they ensure seamless data exchange within their own four walls, laying a solid foundation for more extensive collaboration with external stakeholders. Electronic data sharing enhances operational efficiency, improves coordination, and facilitates informed decision-making throughout the supply chain.
- Eliminate Paper Usage and Associated Challenges:
Apart from being environmentally unfriendly, paper-based warehouse transactions introduce various issues such as data errors, delays, and the risk of losing important documents. Handwriting errors, illegible characters, and inaccuracies during data entry are all common problems that warehouses face when relying on paper. These issues lead to a lack of timely and accurate information within warehouse operations, impacting productivity and customer satisfaction. By transitioning to digital processes, warehouses can overcome these challenges and achieve significant improvements in efficiency and accuracy.
- Implement Barcoding and Wireless Technologies:
To begin the journey toward a more efficient and accurate warehouse, implementing barcoding and wireless technologies is crucial. Here are four suggestions to get started:
- Inventory Counts: Utilize barcoded locations, parts, and scanners (even your smartphone) to conduct regular inventory counts. Download the data into an Excel spreadsheet and reconcile it with your accounting system. The frequency of inventory counts should be determined by your turnover rate, with more frequent counts for higher turnover items.
- Inventory Moves: Tracking the movement of products within the warehouse is essential for efficient operations. Implement a system to record product transfers in and out of specific locations, and support these moves with regular inventory counts. This ensures that products can be easily located, reducing reliance on memory and luck.
- Labelling: Ensure that every incoming product is labeled with a scannable barcode. While this may require adjustments to your receiving processes, it is a cost-effective solution that improves inventory management. Consider aligning the barcoded part numbers with your existing part numbering schema for compatibility and consistency.
- Reward System: Establish a reward system to incentivize accurate inventory capture and maintenance. It doesn’t have to be extravagant; a pizza lunch, movie tickets, or simple recognition can go a long way. By encouraging employees to embrace new work processes and habits, you can improve inventory accuracy, resulting in cost savings and enhanced operational efficiency.
As warehouses move towards online inventory management to support customer queries and shopping experiences, maintaining high levels of inventory accuracy becomes paramount. Anything less than optimal accuracy can lead to financial losses and undermine the effectiveness of marketing efforts. Websites and promotional campaigns are only as good as the inventory and warehouse processes supporting the data. By implementing the best practices discussed in this article, warehouses can ensure accurate inventory management, contribute to a better world, and position themselves for success in an increasingly competitive market.
Remember, investing in wireless technologies, barcoding, and digitizing warehouse operations may require some upfront effort, but the long-term benefits far outweigh the initial costs. Start implementing these practices today to pave the way for a more efficient, accurate, and future-ready warehouse operation.