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Four Ways to Increase Warehouse Efficiency

by Michael Koploy

A recent survey by Intermec reported that workforce inefficiencies account for nearly 3,000 lost hours each year.

The survey also stated that 89 percent of the warehouses surveyed believe that investing in new technology would allow warehouse managers to recoup lost time and improve productivity. While new technology certainly helps, it’s important to evaluate warehouse practices that are not technology-centered to also boost warehouse efficiency.

Software Advice, a firm that reviews and creates buyer’s guides for the best distribution software, wrote an article with four strategies to implement when evaluating distribution center operations and rooting-out inefficient warehouse processes.

1. Establish Accountability with New Processes

Warehouse managers often utilize technology to recognize errors in fulfillment, but without the proper system of checks and balances in place, the habits that lead to these errors will go uncorrected. It’s essential to hold workers personally responsible for any mistakes they make.

For example, if a packer finds an error made by a picker, instruct the packer to remove the rejected item. Then have the packer call the person responsible to find and replace it with the correct item. Overtime, this will lead to a more attentive staff because of the inconvenience in making a mistake.

2. Keep Records of Changes and Compare Against Error Rates

Warehouse managers commonly use internal picker error rates as a way to analyze warehouse operations. But since these rates fluctuate, it can be difficult to pinpoint if they’re caused by technology, training or human negligence.

Keep a log of all changes in training procedures, machine installments, technology malfunctions, new hires and worker schedules. Comparing error rate changes against this information can help you gain more insight into failures within your operation.

3. Invest in Extended Education and Profit Sharing Programs

Profit sharing programs are a great way to increase warehouse productivity by providing an added incentive for workers. But in order for this to work, employees should be made aware of how they impact the company.

Paul Shrater, COO at e-commerce retailer Minimus, shared about the success of his monthly training sessions. In these sessions, employees are educated on business processes and how their actions impact others within the company.

4. Rely on Leadership to Walk the Floor

Ask senior management to walk the floor in order to identify unnecessary warehouse processes. Since these staff members work in a different area of the business, they can provide a fresh set of eyes that can uncover inefficient activities that have become the norm over time.

Before turning to the bells and whistles of new technology to increase efficiency, it’s a good idea to use these strategies to improve upon the processes your warehouse already has in place. These processes will ensure a strong business framework, which will maximize the impact of new technology upon implementation.


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