Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Tips for Improving Warehouse Productivity

Here are a few ideas that you can look at to improve your warehouse operations and how a comprehensive Warehouse Management System (WMS) can be utilized to help.

Challenges and metrics:

·         Transition time between functions.  This can topic can be wide ranging, but an example is how much time exists between the last stage in picking before the next pick operation begins. 

·         Manage lost time.  This would include time between breaks.

·         What physical steps are taken?  Is your warehouse laid out in an efficient pick order?

·         Equipment use?  Do your pick or put-away operations require mounting and dismounting of forklifts?  Could long range wireless scanners record the information?  Are there empty trips from one location to another?

·         Physical inventory?  How often do you count?  How accurate is your inventory (Book versus Physical)?  Do you cycle count?  Are you using automation such as bar codes and wireless scanners?

·         Staging of received or ready-to-ship product? Are there unnecessary steps in your processing?  Is it more efficient to pick one at a time or in batch?

·         Paper trails.  Are your workers waiting in line for paper work?  How many pieces of paper are involved in a single order?  How many orders per day?

·         How is your workforce managed?  Is it a manual process with spread sheets or does your system automatically record and manage your resources?  Find and eliminate non value added activities.


·         WMS will help you determine exactly how long a task takes and how much time lags between steps.  All transactions are recorded automatically (by worker).   

·         Bar coded locations and products will enable automated picking and put-away operations. Voice picking systems will also direct the worker to the next location and verify the pick.

·         Shipment verification.  While this at first seems to add time, it will increase shipment accuracy and reduce the overhead associated with returns and return processing including the finance department, expedited replacement shipping, return shipment costs and lost time to process everything.

·         Count-backs.  When your worker picks 10 boxes and there is supposed to be 15 in that location, are there 5 left?  If not, it is an exception that is flagged immediately and the problems are identified and resolved more quickly.  Increased inventory accuracy results.

·         Increased physical inventory accuracy.  If you are not 99 plus percent accuracy there is room for improvement.  This area has the single biggest Return on Investment (ROI).  Even a small reduction in physical inventory due to increase accuracy and handling translates to big savings.

·         Communications.  An organized environment where everyone knows what they are supposed to do.  An environment where management has the information to make key decisions are the foundation for less frustration and savings.  Get employee/worker feedback.  The best laid plans can fall short if no one understands what they are to do or why they are doing it.

Bottom line.  By establishing key metrics and implementing automation in stages you enable management to go after tasks that are inefficient and pull waste from those functions.  These are the building blocks to lean processing.  Tracking, measuring and reporting needs to become a philosophy in your organization. 

Dolvin Consulting works with Manufacturers and Distributors to help them implement more efficient warehouse processing.  We often do this in stages and the results pay for themselves.  Contact us today for a no-charge initial evaluation.

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