9 Tips for Improving Warehouse Productivity

We all want to improve our warehouse efficiency. It’s a never-ending vicious cycle, at times, but there are things merchants can do to make their operations run smoothly.

Here are 9 tips for improving your warehouse productivity:

Create a picking path
This determines the entire flow of the warehouse. Your picking begins at one end of the warehouse and ends at the wrapping staging area.

Bin by top hits
If it is properly binned, most of your picks will be done in the first 20%. Reevaluate the top hits items regularly. Inventory is a living breathing animal that always changes.

Save the bulk items for the end or separate from the small picks.
Fifty-pound cases are brutal picks. They should come directly from a pallet to the final staging area if it is not a giant conveyor warehouse.

Use picking manifests
This allows multiple orders to be pulled at once. Large orders can be picked separately, but you can combine five or six small orders together in one picking manifest where they are separated in final boxing.

Low stocking levels
How low can you go? All items have a shelf life. When restocking, all items need to be rotated. The more inventory on-hand, the harder it is to rotate.

Loading manifests
There should always be “wiggle room” because ABC Co. needs this by 10 am. In general, each route should come out in suggested delivery order. It comes out in reverse order, because the first thing you load is the last thing you deliver.

Shipping manifests
If you are not using GPS, then you are using Thomas maps. Put in the grid location of the customer with special instructions such as warehouse or office delivery, if they are closed for lunch. This is very helpful when you have a regular driver out sick. This is the information you can have in your database. Once you scan or create a shipping manifest, this information should show up on the manifest for the driver.

Employee comfort
Sometimes from the operations side it is easy to forget these are people and not just expenses. If there is concrete, there should be fatigue mats where they stand regularly. If it is quiet enough, have a radio playing. Studies show that productivity increases when music is playing. Control the climate — at least a little — with space heaters or fans. Even in a climate-controlled warehouse, when you are loading a trailer and it is hot or cold outside then that is the temperature in the trailer.

Feedback from employees
Make employees part of your operation. Do not decree laws without input first. Let them voice their opinions without judgment. You may be surprised at the good ideas you get and where they come from. If you care about their comfort and you care about their opinion, then they will care about the job they do for you.

John Tufts is a former consultant and operations manager for Tufts Office Supplies.

This article was originally posted in 2012 and is updated frequently