So, you want to optimize your warehouse, don’t ya?
While there are many different areas and processes you can focus on when attempting to optimize your warehouse, the method listed below can be applied to all areas of your warehouse in one form or another.
Look around your warehouse. If you haven’t recently, perform each process yourself. Be familiar with the requirements of each process so that you can better identify its needs.
Step 1 – Streamline
This step is all about eliminating the excess.
- Warehouse Flow
- Repetitive Travel
Is the operational flow of product in your facility logical? All areas of the warehouse should be located according to how dependent it is relevant to the areas of the warehouse surrounding it. If Area A and Area B have high volumes of traffic flow between them, either one way or both ways, then Area A and Area B are strong candidates to be located directly next to each other. The opposite also holds true.
Do any of your warehouse processes involve multiple touches on any level (each, case, pallet)? Are there touches in the process that are simply placeholders, waiting for the next touch to occur? That is what is known as “double handling”. You touch the product more times than necessary. Touches are time, and time is money. Replenishment, picking, and packing operations are prime areas to start when looking for excessive touches.
Do you consistently manually move a product, case, or pallet in your warehouse from Area A to Area B with a pallet lift, truck, or forklift? If you have repetitive travel like this, then you can reduce labor costs and increase efficiency by eliminating this repetitive travel using Step 2 below.
Step 2 – Automate
This step is all about implementing technology where repetitive actions take place.
- Pick and Place
- Employee Interactions with WMS Interface
To eliminate repetitive travel, consider purchasing conveyor
to transport your product, case, or pallet. This may seem like an expensive investment upfront, however, the return on investment could prove well worth it.
If you have repetitive, manual pick and place operations, robotic automation may be for you. Depending on the frequency and labor cost of this operation, it may not make financial sense for your warehouse to implement robotics, but some areas of your warehouse may benefit.
Do you have processes where an employee interacts with your WMS interface? If so, then implementing a database management system (DBMS) such as MS Access could greatly optimize those processes.
Step 3 – Standardize
This step is all about setting rates to your warehouse’s now lean and improved processes.
Note: Perform Step 1 and Step 2 first to ensure you are setting standards for an optimized process.
- Best Practices
- Setting Rates
Form a list of “Best Practices”. Spend time with the best/fastest workers for any process. What do they do differently that sets them apart from others doing the same job? Ask them. Creating a list of “Best Practices” allows the learning curve for new hires to be shortened, as well as help elevate an average worker into a worker who excels.
You must set rates (standards) for each process in your warehouse to hold accountability. You can perform time studies, a MOST model, or simply set standards based off your historical data found in your WMS tables (the latter is the least preferable method). Standardizing your warehouse not only holds your employees accountable, but also allows you to optimize your labor force. See Nathan Busch’s blog Get the MOST from Your Workforce
for more information on MOST.
This three-step process is not a “cover-all” approach to optimizing your warehouse, but it is a “cover-most” approach. If you learn to streamline, automate, and standardize each area or process in your warehouse, you will be much closer to complete warehouse optimization.
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