Today, warehouse operators are under constant pressure to increase productivity with the rapid growth of e-commerce transactions. According to the Statista Digital Market Outlook, 2021 saw over 469 billion dollars in e-commerce revenue, and this number is only expected to rise in the coming years. To keep pace with these higher volumes and smaller orders, warehouses must find ways to streamline their processes and increase efficiency. Here are five ways you can optimize your warehouse workflows.
1. Utilize automation to reduce human errors
As technology advances, new automation tools emerge to optimize workflows and handle repetitive tasks otherwise assigned to human beings. From marking products to sorting and moving inventory through your facility, these traditionally manual processes are becoming increasingly automated.
By removing the human element in these mundane tasks, you reduce human error and increase efficiency and scalability. Automating tedious warehouse processes also frees up employees to perform more complex and rewarding jobs, reducing worker fatigue.
2. Optimize labor productivity
Since labor is one of the most significant operational expenses, it's imperative for warehouses to optimize workflows. Whether you're investing in automation technology or providing employee incentives, improving labor productivity is a critical component in generating more profit.
Consider creating a reward system for hard work and allowing for flexible work hours. Recognition of quality work goes a long way in boosting employee morale, and accommodating different schedules can increase operational efficiency.
3. Invest in a warehouse management system
Warehouse workers must often handle multiple tasks at once while maintaining efficient fulfillment, including packing, labeling and moving products throughout the facility. To manage all these tasks and the daily operations of your warehouse, Forbes recommends using a warehouse management system (WMS) that allows operators to track inventory movement, automate packing and shipping processes, and provide insights on order fulfillment.
A properly integrated WMS significantly reduces manual processing times on things like inventory management, marking parcels and order fulfillment. Leveraging a WMS will save you time and money, and ensure your warehouse operates at peak efficiency.
4. Adopt lean inventory practices
The basic idea of lean inventory management is to only use and store what is needed and nothing more. Manufacturers utilize this practice to optimize manufacturing processes and reduce operating costs. While you still want to maintain enough stock to avoid running out, keeping a lean inventory is generally recognized as a more economically successful practice.
Holding on to excess stock comes with many risks, including the rising cost of storage, damaged items, stockpiles expiring or becoming obsolete, and losing or misplacing inventory. Lean inventory practices negate many of these risks by moving products in and out of the warehouse more frequently and in smaller quantities.
5. Use data to drive decision-making
A WMS is more than just a tool to manage the daily operations of a warehouse; it can also provide you with valuable data on consumer habits, allowing you to forecast behavior and adjust your workflow accordingly. To get the most out of your dollar, you should explore the capabilities of your WMS and leverage the analytics it provides to anticipate and meet the future needs of customers and your business.