Whether you run a small family business or a large distribution center, you know that gaps in warehouse processing efficiency can seriously slow down your business.
And in today’s consumer-centric economic landscape, there’s no room for idleness, as 63 percent of consumers say they expect three-day delivery as standard.
A thorough audit of your process can help ensure you run an efficient operation and your customers are always satisfied with your services.
Inefficiencies in the form of inaccurate inventory levels, slow replenishment, underperforming technology, and others can cost you millions a year if not addressed, but identifying them can be a costly challenge of its own. Here are some ways you can find and fix the weak spots in your fulfillment process.
1. Increase in inventory accuracy
Did you know that retail inventories are correct, on average, only 63 percent of the time? Why is this such a big deal you ask? If your inventory numbers are wrong, you will not be able to stock, pick, pack and ultimately run at maximum efficiency.
Installation of a warehouse management System helps you keep your distribution centers stocked and your items in the right areas. It connects the requested work processes from each channel to a complete inventory – a consistently versatile advanced arrangement that helps you find items and complete orders more accurately and effectively.
Not to mention that we all know that customers and partners expect to see what’s in stock and when while they’re ordering. Improve inventory accuracy with fulfillment inventory solutions that ensure unparalleled accuracy.
2. Make your process predictable
When your process varies wildly from one day, week, month, or season to the next, inefficiencies arise. The fact is, if you don’t know what to expect each day, you’re losing out on labor and operational costs, not to mention over- or under-stocking merchandise.
Invest in good enterprise distribution software to monitor, predict, and automate your systems for more predictability. When your software does a lot of the monitoring and maintenance for you, it’s easier to refocus your attention and improve efforts elsewhere.
3. Invest in an RFID system
Budget hogs in the fulfillment process can quickly add up and prevent your business from growing rapidly, but they can be really difficult to identify if you don’t have the right systems in place. Visibility and data tracking at all levels of the supply chain are essential to help you develop robust analytics, and analytics are necessary to make impactful changes on a daily basis.
With Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) technology and detailed tracking software, you open up transparency and tracking like never before, contributing to better data aggregation.
4. Reduce touches and handling
Take a look at the average number of touches – how often an item is handled – of a typical item in your facility. The more touches or steps, the more room for error and mishandling. Reducing each unit’s processing times is a worthy compliance effort that can help prevent errors, damage, and theft while increasing the speed of your process.
Note that touches are not limited to human touches. Every step in the fulfillment lifecycle can be considered a touch, whether it’s robotic picking, pallet transport, or human packaging.
5. Optimize the plant flow
You may think that the way your facility is laid out has little impact on the efficiency or success of your business, but it just isn’t. Creating a smooth flow, from accepting incoming goods to shipping items, is important to avoiding roadblocks and inefficiencies in the process.
Hiring a warehouse layout optimization specialist is the best way to do it if you think your facility needs a fairly major overhaul. It also helps you optimize your storage space so you can store more without having to upgrade.
6. Use less packaging
It should be the goal of every fulfillment manager to reduce the amount of packaging used. More packaging means more steps, more handling, more time, more money and more waste.
Take Amazon as an example of how to reduce packaging to increase inventory: the e-commerce giant is working to overcome its massive packaging inefficiencies by using more envelopes and developing a system that allows it to ship items in send in their original packaging. Your goal should always be to find out how you can best protect the transported goods with as little material as possible.
7. Streamline picking operations
Order picking – grabbing specific items to prepare them for shipment – is one of the core components of a well-functioning fulfillment center. Because even tiny picking inefficiencies can seriously affect your bottom line, there are all sorts of incredible picking technologies out there (again, you can find examples here on Amazon).
But you don’t have to spend millions on high-tech picker robots to get the job done right. Small changes, like consolidating orders into single driving units and keeping all picking operations at ground level, can result in massive changes over time.
8. Optimize slotting operations
Slotting is the process of organizing your center’s inventory before it is picked, processed and shipped. As with picking, optimizing your slotting efforts and pallet racking can yield massive returns with small and affordable changes.
Even minor adjustments, such as B. Storing your fastest-moving items in the most accessible places in the facility can revolutionize the way you do business. Treat slotting as a science and follow best practices to ensure items are fulfilled in a reasonable timeframe.
Warehouse handling efficiency is all about analytics
Ultimately, in any quest for warehouse processing efficiency, you will only get far if you do, test, measure and adapt as part of an agile, constantly evolving optimization strategy. But how do you make measurable changes if you don’t have the measurements?
The very best thing you can do to constantly improve your processes is track, track, and track some more. With the right software and equipment, you can accurately monitor, measure, and adjust based on past performance data. From there, it’s easy to close efficiency gaps!