Certain practices separate average warehouses from the top-tier warehouses. While some managers choose to do the bare minimum, those who implement intelligent strategies are able to get the best results from their warehouse space and workforce. Efficient warehouse operations allow businesses to move stock quickly, minimize errors, cut down on unnecessary costs, and keep employees safe, confident, and happy in their roles. If you are looking to run your warehouse at its optimal level, implement the following best practices for warehouse operations.

Implement Automatic Data Collection

An automatic data collection system is key for productive and efficient warehouse operations. It reduces the possibility of errors that may more commonly be made by manually tracking data, and it also cuts down on time. There is no need to waste manpower by having an employee track and write out a long list of data. Today’s technology allows warehouses to automatically track data using barcodes and radio frequency identification, or RFID. Automatic data collection is an essential practice if you want your warehouse operating at the top of its game—you’ll have more accurate data and a more streamlined data collection process that requires less of your employees’ time.

Use Hands-Free Order Selection Technology

If you want your warehouse operations to move quickly and smoothly, you’ll want to use technology that allows for hands-free order selection. This type of technology helps take picking to the next level by accelerating the process. Older, hands-on technology like handheld scanners can cause a delay in the picking process. More innovative and efficient options break down these barriers, and allow employees to quickly pick the products they need without the hindrance of a handheld device. These newer technologies include wrist-mounted RF scanners, voice picking systems, and pick-to-light order fulfillment systems. These technologies are essential for efficient warehouse operations, as they cut down on time, increase productivity, and ultimately slash costs.

Streamline the Handling Process

Analyze your handling process to see if there are any touches of product that you can eliminate.

There may be an unnecessary step between picking a product and getting it to the shipping carton, so look into your processes to see what you can change. Any touches that are eliminated will save both time and money. By streamlining your handling process, your warehouse operations will become much more efficient.

Intelligently Organize Product

One of the key warehouse operations best practices is to create an intelligent product organization system based on data, available space, and safety. If you aren’t sure where to start, look at your warehouse organization through the lens of the ABC analysis. This system is based on the Pareto principle, which states that 80% of product movement in a warehouse is attributed to 20% of the inventory.

With that in mind, the ABC analysis splits inventory into 3 categories. Category A represents the best-selling inventory, which will account for the most movement. This represents 20% of your stock, and should be placed in the most accessible spot in your warehouse. Category B represents the next 30% of your stock, which is moved less frequently than the products in Category A. Naturally, this category should be placed in the next most accessible spot. Finally, Category C represents the remaining, less frequently moved stock, which can be placed in the remaining stock areas that aren’t as accessible.

For more smart tips on efficiently organizing your warehouse, check out this post.

Schedule Shipments to Arrive at the Same Time

If you have multiple docks, you have a great opportunity to maximize the potential of your warehouse operations. By scheduling shipments to arrive at your warehouse at the same time, you can schedule all of the set-up and unloading together. This reduces time of setup and breakdown since you’ll only need to do it once, and helps you utilize your workforce more efficiently.

Use a Cycle Count Method for Inventory

While many may choose to do a scheduled full physical inventory, the ongoing cycle count method is much less disruptive, and saves you time and stress. By using the cycle count method, you can schedule inventories of certain sections of your product at different times throughout the year. That way, you are staying on top of your inventory and being diligent about keeping track of everything, but don’t have to face the stressful task of doing it all at one time. Depending on your warehouse size, you can do this method on a weekly or bi-weekly schedule. You may want to check product that moves more frequently more often, so that you are staying on top of restocking your best-sellers. If you are looking to keep track of your inventory without having to halt operations, the cycle count method is the most efficient warehouse operations method.

Deal with Shipments as Your Receive Them

Don’t get in the habit of putting off taking care of shipments that come in. By allowing procrastination to get the best of you and your employees, you all could end up getting swamped down the line. By allowing boxes to pile up, you can create an organizational nightmare that will just get more and more difficult to handle over time. Help out your future self and employees by making it a standard practice to deal with the shipments as you receive them. Put shipments in your calendar so that you know exactly when to expect them, and how to allocate your workforce so that employees are ready to take care of them.

Provide Adequate Training for Optimal Productivity

Your employees are only as good as the training you give them. If you want them to operate at their fullest potential, they need to be fully trained in all processes of warehouse operations. This includes training them on using technology, understanding workflow, safety requirements and practices, what is expected of them on a daily basis, and whatever else is essential for their success. By skimping on the training, you are only robbing yourself of getting the best value out of your employees. On top of that, employees who aren’t adequately trained are less likely to feel confident in their roles, and are more likely to look for work elsewhere. For the sake of efficient warehouse operations and maintaining high retention rates, you’ll want to create a thorough training method.

Regularly Review Processes for Effectiveness

Warehouses change and evolve over time. New product comes in, more employees are brought on board, and the space may even physically expand. As these changes happen, it is important to adapt to the evolutions and make any necessary changes to warehouse operations. It is likely that methods that worked well for you a few years ago won’t work as well today, so you need to review what is working best, as well as what can be changed. This may mean reorganizing stock, introducing a new technology to the warehouse floor, revising the picking workflow, or adding new safety regulations for equipment.

Pay Close Attention to Retention

High turnover rates can equal high costs, as it can be costly to interview, hire, and train replacement employees. If you are dealing with high turnover, look at ways you can strengthen retention. As mentioned, training is key for employees to feel confident in their position. On top of this, factors to look at include communication (do employees feel they can talk to superiors about issues or ideas?), opportunities for growth (are employees given chances to expand their skill set and climb up the ladder?), and benefits (what extra incentives can you give employees?). In order to have cost-effective and efficient warehouse operations, you’ll need to find ways to strengthen your retention rate.

Prioritize Safety

Safety should be a top priority of any workplace, but is particularly pertinent to warehouses. Since employees are dealing with heavy machinery and lots of movement throughout the space, it is essential that the warehouse is operating in the safest way possible, and that employees are aware of all safety practices. Safety practices should be diligently taught during training, and it is essential to refresh employees on guidelines every now and then to make sure everyone is completely aware of protocol. Whenever new machinery is introduced, or an aspect of the workflow is changed, it is vital that updated training is given to all relevant employees.