The purpose of your warehouse is to receive, store, and move products as effectively and seamlessly as possible. Warehouse efficiency is the core metric for maintaining the productivity and profitability of your operation. A poorly designed facility will hamper order fulfillment, leading to errors and unhappy customers. The good news is that making small tweaks and changes can significantly move the needle and make a large, positive impact on your bottom line.
In this article, we cover key strategies for improving your warehouse efficiency.
Review your current warehouse layout
The first step toward improving your facility is to look at your warehouse layout. It’s important to evaluate current performance, so you understand where the process is being held up and where any chokepoints are. Are products traveling long distances across your facility when shorter routes are possible? Is there an area in your warehouse where forklifts can’t operate without excessive maneuvering? Are there frequent traffic jams? Are there consistent problems with order fulfillment or products being out of stock due to employee errors?
Understand what warehouse efficiency problems you have right now, so you can take the right steps to fix them.
Maximize the use of space in your facility
A warehouse layout refers to how the space in your facility is used. There are five primary areas in every warehouse: receiving, storage, packing, shipping, and offices. Where the offices are as well as the loading bays are generally fixed within a facility. However, where and how you store and pack product can and should be tailored to your specific operation and needs. Storage areas should have direct connections to both receiving and packing areas, while the shipping area should be adjacent to the packing area and loading bays.
Here are some tips for effectively organizing your warehouse layout and maximizing space.
- Expand your storage capacity by going vertical. Stack storage shelves as high as you can, and use order pickers to safely and quickly place and grab products without the need for ladders. Do not exceed the maximum height of your forklifts or picking machines.
- Calculate your minimum forklift aisle width, so you can place your racks as close together as possible and add more racks, while still being able to maneuver your forklift effectively.
- One of the best ways to improve warehouse efficiency is by establishing ‘forklift only’ lanes. These ‘highways’ allow vehicles to travel quickly from one end of your facility to the other and reduce the chance of accidents.
Minimize warehouse travel
You want products, employees, and machines to travel as little as possible within your facility. One way to accomplish this goal is by putting popular, complimentary, or commonly moved items near each other and close to packaging or staging areas. Another way to boost warehouse efficiency is to divide your facility into working areas with specific operators or employees assigned to each one. That way, operators will work in their designated zone without needing to travel around the warehouse to locate the products.
Choose your forklift before designing your warehouse layout
One of the best ways to maximize warehouse efficiency is to determine which forklift is right for you and then design your facility around it. Think about how much product you have to move, your average load weights, and the width of your loads. Use that information to purchase the right machine, then build your warehouse layout with rack heights and aisle widths to match its capabilities.
Implement automation technology
A key part of improving warehouse efficiency is utilizing automation technology. Automated guided vehicles (AGVs), auto-picking robots, and automated sortation systems can all help you quickly and accurately move product throughout your facility with minimal human input and less potential for error. The primary benefits of this technology are to reduce labor on highly repetitive tasks, to make human labor more efficient, and to eliminate mistakes resulting from manual data entry and order picking.
If you have any questions about optimizing your warehouse efficiency, choosing the right equipment, or developing a warehouse layout, contact the JIT team today.