With consumers expecting value-added services as standard and management keen to keep costs under control, the only answer is efficiency. Discover the six warehouse management best practices that could strategically streamline your operations.
For companies in the UK warehousing and distribution sectors, the business landscape is changing quickly – and the rate of change is showing no sign of slowing down.
The pressure on the supply chain from increasingly sophisticated customer demand is constantly growing, while fierce competition between online sellers has meant that services such as same-day delivery and end-to-end order tracking are fast becoming commonplace.
These developments have transformed and intensified the challenges facing Britain’s warehouses, third-party logistics warehouses and distribution centres. The concept of predictable peak demand periods has practically disappeared, while the onus is on warehouses to ship more quickly than ever; with no loss of accuracy and minimal costs to the business.
So how are leading warehouses rising to meet these challenges? Well, 66% of warehouses plan to equip staff with more technology over the next five years - but there are other ways to make improvements. We’ve compiled this list of warehouse management best practices, so you can strategically improve the efficiency of your warehouse operations.
Underpinning any successful warehousing system is effective communication between all the parties involved – from pickers on the warehouse floor, to managers who need instant oversight of any potential problems, to board members who need to know whether the business is meeting its operating targets.
Warehouses that can share this information instantly and clearly are better placed to avoid problems and meet customer demands.
Visibility of how the company is performing at any given moment is not only useful when it comes to day-to-day operations. It can also provide warehouse managers with vital information about what kind of long-term strategy might be most suitable for their business.
A warehouse management system (WMS) dashboard can help to highlight areas of strength or weakness that can, respectively, be built on or addressed in order to boost the future success of the business.
Warehouses have traditionally used temporary workers to meet seasonal or unexpected changes in demand. While this has always been a relatively expensive option, developments such as post-referendum labour shortages and the introduction of legislation like the National Living Wage mean the cost is starting to become much more of a concern.
There is now even more incentive to look towards smart warehouse management systems that can enable companies to increase the pace and scale of their operations without having to rely unduly on short-term assistance from agency staff.
Whether you are introducing your first warehouse management system or updating an existing WMS, an investment is required in terms of both time and money. But consider the alternative – businesses which continue to rely on outdated technology, paper-based or spreadsheet-based systems will inevitably find themselves unable to cope as customers’ demands continue to evolve.
In the current state of the industry, investing in technology that can scale with your business as it grows and develops could be one of your most important and worthwhile decisions.
The success of any new WMS depends to a large extent on the staff who work with it on a daily basis. It is crucial to ensure not just that the right technology is chosen, but also that employees are given adequate support during installation and go-live to help them feel comfortable with and make the most of the new system.
This will be particularly important when it comes to training temporary workers as quickly as possible during busy periods so the impact on the capacity of other employees is minimal. Implementing an easy-to-use, intuitive WMS will help warehouses to achieve an overarching vision of reducing the average length of training by 44%.
Automation, particularly around packing, is only likely to become more popular in warehouses. But to maximise its effectiveness, warehouses must ensure that any kind of process automation is appropriate in scale, and operates in harmony with the rest of the organisation. If machines spend long periods sitting idle, they may not prove to be a sensible investment.
Overall, improving the operational efficiency of your warehouse and streamlining internal processes is just as much down to people as it is programs. Data analytics and dashboard-driven visibility are worthless unless implemented with the right priorities in mind.
A warehouse management system takes strong internal communications, and appropriate knowledge of scalability, integration, as well as staff training and support.
With a WMS that has been implemented properly, and given the due diligence that should be given to a long-term efficiency strategy, you can hope to set your business apart from your marketplace competitors.