Tuesday, April 21, 2015

The Most Common Warehouse Mistakes and How to Avoid Them

My first job in high school was at the Sunbeam bread company. Every Sunday I would head over to the warehouse at 5AM and sort the various orders for the delivery drivers.

In addition to the smell of bread and yeast it was a grueling job. Lifting the trays with 12 loaves and sliding them in the racks completely manually wasn't easy and injuries were pretty regular. So when I was approached by Justin to write this article I thought it could be of some use for the next 16 year-old loading up bread for Sunbeam. 

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If we said there was a one size fits all answer as to how to effectively run and manage a warehouse then we would be lying. Experience of staff, layout of the warehouse and supply chain are just some of the things to take into account when looking at how to best run your warehouse.

However, there are always a number of common rules you should be following to be successful, on the flip side this means  there are also a few popular mistakes and areas in which companies seem to get it wrong too.

So if you’re in need of a few pointers on how to stay one step ahead when it comes to warehouse management, check out our list of common warehouse mistakes and learn how to avoid them. Don’t recognise any of these issues? Great! However, we would still recommend taking a note of them and ensuring that staff remain vigilant.

Holding onto paperwork

Smaller warehouses may consider themselves a pick and pack business with no need for technology. Whilst this may seem simpler at first, paperwork is a sure fire way to slow down your processes and is often the cause of delays, lost documents and even missing stock.

It can seem a huge effort to switch to a digital system but you don’t need to contact Bill Gates just yet. A warehouse management system needn’t be expensive nor over complicated and there are plenty of simple, effective applications available to suit all budgets. There is an upfront cost but it’ll pay off in the long run.

Keeping excess stock

Most warehouses could play host to an episode of Obsessive Compulsive Hoarder and despite years of many preaching lean practice and inventory reduction holding on to old stock is still one of the most common warehouse mistakes made, everywhere!
Wholesalers are particularly guilty of this, often buying huge quantities of products to make use of bulk discounts which can soon become an abundance of unsaleable inventory.

By reducing inventory levels, your supply chain is leaner and you have less money tied up in stock, resulting in a much stronger cash flow. Avoid offers that are too good to be true and learn when to turn down an ‘unbelievable’ discount.

Not optimising picking paths

Ever worked in a warehouse? Nope, well some seem to make picking paths like a game of temple run: left, left, left, over the the tree trunk… By not utilising efficient picking paths, warehouses significantly lower their picking rate. Whilst this may not seem that important it can have a huge effect of supply chain cycle times and is also costing you more in labour costs of packers having to travel further and longer.

It’s not always easy to pick out a clear, straight picking run but with some prior thinking and a bit of time and effort you can optimise routes to be as efficient as possible.

Lack of health and safety management

High racking, forklifts, heavy boxes and busy schedules, what could possibly go wrong? Even a tidy warehouse isn’t necessarily safe.  A good health and safety office within a warehouse should be capable of spotting hidden hazards as well as the more obvious risks.

Just because a staff member hasn’t had an accident yet, it doesn’t mean it can’t or won’t happen and the consequences can be lethal. Warehouses are dangerous environments and any accidents or near misses should be analysed as to the cause and eliminated where possible. This is not only going to save time and money but will also save employees from injury.

Not paying attention to housekeeping

For most warehouse managers, cleaning and housekeeping is probably bottom of a long list of things they want/need to do. Aisles with old unused pallets, shrink wrap and messy loading docks are all signs of a warehouse that isn’t being tidied properly. A lack of housekeeping isn’t just a risk to safety, it also results in a lack of efficiency. Mess creates obstructions and restricts a smooth flow of people and goods through the warehouse.

The easiest way to eliminate mess and clutter is to enforce a regime of housekeeping, with time set aside at the end of each shift for cleaning and tidying. By keeping the warehouse space tidy, the next shift is able to start work on time without delay of cleaning up before work begins.

Rushing the goods in process

Warehousing is a case of goods in vs goods out. When the pressure is on and there is a large number of customers orders to get out of the warehouse and dispatched on time it can be easy to forget about what’s happening on the other side.

One of the keys to effective warehousing is ensuring the goods in process are efficient and that dedicated staff are trained and utilised for the procedure. Whilst many think it’s a case of signing a box and have a quick chat with your delivery driver, intake procedures can be quite specialised and it is important to have the right staff for the job. 

No staff development

Busy schedules and tight budgets are a sure fire way of putting staff development and training low down on the priority list. However, in a high risk environment it’s important that employees receive the training they deserve and have their development needs provided for, opening up options for individual growth.

It’s important to remember that it costs much less the keep existing employees motivated and engaged than it does to rehire and train new staff. By taking some time out so provide new resources to staff training and development you can build a strong work force of competent and committed employees.

Justin O’Sullivan is a SEMA Approved Inspector with over 25 years experience in the industry storage equipment industry. Justin lives and works in North London providing SEMA approved pallet racking inspections and training for SME’s in London and the South East of England. He runs http://www.semarackinginspections.co.uk.

Disclaimer: I received no compensation for running this article, nor did I offer any to the author.

1 comment:

Mark Grogan said...

Supply chain is a highly busy industry and work processes take place at a really fast pace. If not monitored properly, workers might overlook certain safety measures as they want to get things done quickly in order to meet tight deadlines of customers’ orders. This should be observed to ensure work gets done properly at the facility without sacrificing safety and quality of products.