Today, due to COVID and the general growth of e-commerce, warehouses are facing huge demand, and the operators, as before, are constantly striving to improve efficiency and productivity in their facilities. To them, anything that helps them achieve this is worthy of consideration.

Below is a look at different ways to improve warehouse productivity, focusing on employees, the picking process, stock management, the warehouse space, technology and automation. We finish off by discussing how you can also boost the productivity of your warehouse by implementing our loading and unloading solutions for transferring goods to and from trailers in loading bays to your facilities.

WE'D LOVE TO HEAR FROM YOU

Contact our logistics experts team today

Get in touch

employees

The employees, the people on the ground, are the ones largely responsible for taking care of workloads. Here are some tips for increasing the productivity of your employees. Remember that health and safety is paramount.

Incentivise employees

If you don’t already incentivise employees based on their performance, this is one of the easiest measures to implement. Note that creating incentive programmes will increase your costs, but the idea behind improving performance is to make more money. In turn, and in theory, you’ll be able to afford to pay your employees more.

There are lots of different ways to incentivise your employees. Some are extremely simple. A few examples of ways to add a little incentive for them include:

  • honouring them publicly for their work;
  • providing them with the best equipment;
  • offering them a flexible work schedule;
  • giving them coupons and gift cards;
  • allowing them additional days off work.

If possible, always make the incentivisation visual so they can see how they get to the reward at the end. Let your employees know that you’ll review the target. After all, if they keep exceeding it, you’re going to want to increase the figure.

Set up a feedback system

Your people on the ground are the ones who are likely to first spot any problems that are damaging efficiency or productivity. How connected do they feel to the warehouse? This is important because it will determine whether they escalate the issue or not.

If you don’t have a system in place for employees to share feedback, you’re less likely to find out about any issues holding them back. In some instances, the system could be as simple as the warehouse supervisor fostering team communication so that a shelf can be fixed. Other times, it may be more appropriate to set up a suggestions box or organise a formal weekly sit-down meeting. The choice of system is up to you, but feedback from the floor is essential to improve productivity in your warehouse.

Implement training structures

Hiring good people is the start. Training is important to keep them on track and help them grow. You should conduct regular training sessions of short increments of 45 to 60 minutes. A direct supervisor should host the training whenever possible, and the training should be more conversational in its tone than in the form of a lecture.

You should put in place a structure and make sure that training feels worthwhile and valued by the workers. A formal certifications structure is something you should consider, with workers receiving certifications for warehouse usage, picking route understanding or other aspects of warehouse work.

Naturally, certifications expire, so ensure your employees renew their certification every couple of years. They can be mandatory or be optional and come with rewards. Whereas the mandatory certifications would allow the workers to operate in your warehouse, the optional ones may entitle them to a bonus at the end of the year, depending on how many certifications they already hold.

Cross train your employees

Training workers to perform different tasks can skyrocket productivity, not to mention give you flexibility in how you employ your team. Having highly specialised workers can lead to inefficiencies because if they’re ill or take time off, you might not have anyone to take over their duties while they’re away. The warehouse market is highly competitive, and there’s a labour shortage, which means there’s a high turnover and can expose your operation to inefficiency issues if a specialised worker leaves. Pre-empt them by cross-training your employees.

Add extras

A happy workforce is a productive workforce. It’s no secret. Sometimes little things make warehouse work more enjoyable and foster team spirit. This could be pizzas for lunch, an early finish from time to time or some other small gesture. The important thing is that it’s a positive for the workforce, so add them in occasionally to lift morale and increase productivity.

Track and communicate KPIs

It’s crucial to set KPIs and monitor performance. How are you going to improve productivity in the warehouse, if you don’t have a starting point? You need to know what metrics you’re measuring and what your target is. These metrics should be quick and easy to measure, and you should break them down. How are you measuring productivity? This could be one metric or it could be several, but either way, you must break them down and identify key metrics you can start driving improvement upon.

The here and now is important and motivates a lot of employees. By providing them with real-time information, you can maintain higher levels of productivity. That’s because they can monitor their own levels of performance. Visual displays, as mentioned, are useful for this.

Consider gamification

Gamification is a modern term and means turning a measured task into a type of game. This can really bolster productivity because it motivates teams to push themselves to perform to the next ‘level’.

There will be winners and losers, though, so you need to understand the consequences of this before you implement any kind of gamification. If you hit the nail on the head, a team of hard-working, engaged and productive employees will be the outcome.

Picking

Picking is an important factor in smooth warehouse operation. Efficient picking can make the difference between success and failure. To make your picking more efficient and maintain good levels of productivity, there are several measures you can take.

Review routes

It’s common amongst businesses that don’t sell new product lines to establish picking routes and leave them the way they are indefinitely. Anything too static endangers productivity because the business has never known anything else. Could the routes be better? Possibly, but the business won’t be any the wiser.

Review your picking routes regularly and see if the outcomes are an improvement upon what was expected or fall short of it. Make sure the warehouse management and operations team are involved.

Interweave tasks

If your warehouse is well established and your warehouse management system (WMS) is sophisticated enough, you might wish to try interweaving tasks. Rather than picking stock based on the most efficient route for the order in hand, interweaving tasks entails picking orders based on the best route overall. Ultimately, you’d be picking several orders at once. Instead of picking one order, you could be picking five, and the route is based on the entire pick.

You’ll save a significant amount of time with this system; however, for it to work, your system must be sophisticated, and your employees must be trained and engaged in their work.

Avoid mixing numbers

If you’re using large bins for small items, you might think about using a bin for multiple small items. Resist the temptation. Using the bin in this way may slow down productivity and cause shipment errors, especially if the items are similar in size or appearance.

It’s a dilemma of saving space versus being more efficient. If space is an issue, use smaller bins. You’ll spare yourself more picking errors and reap the benefits from a more productive team. Make sure each small item has its own SKU number.

Be strategic with placement

If you’re operating a large warehouse, strategic placement is essential. You don’t want employees to have to walk from one end of the warehouse to the other just to pick two items. Although organising items by SKU number makes restocking easier and might seem logical because of it, organising them by sales makes more sense if certain items are frequently ordered together.

Invest in RFID technology

Radio frequency identification (RFID) identifies stock inventory location and position in the warehouse by using chips with a small antenna. This provides pickers with up-to-date information on the location of the item they need to pick. If you have a large warehouse or, on any given day, have a lot of items to pick, this technology is incredibly useful. You can automate RFID or, as long as you have a portable RFID scanner, pair it with manual picking.

Use the right mode of storage

Look at your sales for the last six months. Are there items in your prime picking areas that aren’t selling as fast as ones in more remote areas of the warehouse? Move these slow-selling products out of these areas and replace them with the ones that are selling faster for greater efficiency and productivity.

managing stock

Solid inventory management is important to keep your operation efficient. Poor stock management creates frustration, confusion and errors, which results in lost productivity while employees waste time working out what’s gone wrong and how to put it right, or expend their energy on unnecessary tasks. Here are some tips to manage your inventory more efficiently to keep your warehouse employees productive:

Automate inventory management

Manual inventory management is bad for business. No matter how industrious and careful your employees are, there’s room for mistakes, and this can result in angry customers and a potential loss of sales. Counting inventory manually is also time-consuming and frustrating for your staff. They could be putting their time to much more productive use for you.

A good ERP inventory management system could address this task with much more efficiency and accuracy. All the relevant sales and purchase data will be in the same system, so inventory levels will be updated in real time, making it much more straightforward to track inventory.

Streamline inventory management by leveraging machine learning and artificial intelligence

Machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI) are becoming more common in warehouse operations. This technology can analyse data to establish current patterns and future trends, and make decisions based on the outcomes. Machine learning allows you to manage the flow of goods and other items throughout the supply chain so that materials are in the right places at the right time.

Consider ABC analysis

ABC analysis is a way of categorising inventory and organises inventory into three main categories:

  • Category A: best-selling items that account for 80% of revenue or 20% of total inventory.
  • Category B: medium-class items that account for 15% of the revenue or 30% of the total inventory.
  • Category C: lowest consumption items that account 5% of the revenue or make up 50% of the total inventory.

The ABC approach bases itself on demand. Once you’ve categorised the items, you can allocate your time accordingly, establish control over the more important items and forecast more effectively. The approach also facilitates more strategic pricing of your products, based on the demand of the market.

It’s important to realise this system is demanding. ABC analysis requires more resources than traditional costing techniques because of the constant data collection and measurement necessary to sustain operation of it.

Not only is it more demanding, however, but it could also hinder your profitability. By focusing on sales and basing your inventory on these, you may miss out on trends that are just starting out.

Contemplate the ‘just in time (JIT)’ approach

This system entails manufacturing items or procuring the materials for manufacture just before they’re needed, and it aligns production schedules with orders from suppliers. Warehouses implement just-in-time inventory management to become more efficient, reduce waste and cut inventory holding costs.

This is a good approach for smaller businesses because it requires only small investments in stock, keeping their cash flow healthy. They can save storage space and stop goods from becoming obsolete.

JIT inventory management does, however, carry its risks. There’s little margin for error. To succeed, the system relies on a constant flow of goods at specific intervals, and there is a risk of running out. Not only that, but the system places the business at the mercy of the suppliers, who, if they fail to deliver on time, can have a tremendously damaging impact on the business.

Making better use of physical space

Naturally, good organisation creates scope for productivity, whereas bad organisation eats into it. Here are some tips for organising your warehouse space for higher levels of productivity:

Design your warehouse for productivity

Businesses that use warehouses staff them in line with their requirements. Some minimise human involvement and highly automate their warehouses, whereas others keep a large warehouse team. The important thing is to maximise productivity.

Identify processes where it’s possible to make changes and look for areas where you can save time and labour costs. Order picking is one obvious example. If you’re designing your warehouse, you can organise the space with efficient processing in mind.

Establish an efficient flow

To move stock, you want to plan the quickest route from A to B. You can use a Through flow or a U flow layout to do this, which will depend on the layout of your stock, organised either by the popularity of products or into groups of products. Your logistics process will also determine this, which means how you receive goods and stack, pick, pack and dispatch them within the warehouse, and the number of doors necessary. Each handler or vehicle must travel the shortest distance possible to perform their tasks, which means you must work out how to carry out this movement.

Design workstations to suit the task

Lower back injuries, muscle strains, tendinitis and other musculoskeletal disorders are a major cause of workplace injuries. To minimise the risk of injuries from manual repetitive tasks, you should design your workstations in line with the task and the worker. For instance, the work surface area should be the height of the conveyor or the roller from floor level. This makes it more comfortable for the worker and increases productivity and efficiency on the floor.

Review layouts

A change in warehouse location… the failure of a fitting or fixture… a major change in the size or shape of the stock held…  all good reasons to review the layout of your warehouse. Sadly, though, it takes major events like this for a lot of businesses to review their warehouse layout, which otherwise stays the same.

Examine and test your warehouse layout once a year. If a layout delivers better results than your current one, evaluate the cost and the upheaval, compare this with the savings and productivity boost it will generate, and decide if it’s worth it.

Create ample cross aisles

Create plenty of cross aisles so employees can move around your warehouse more easily. From the top down, your warehouse should look more like a grid system than a multi lane motorway. Aisles that stretch as far as the eye can reach might look impressive, but they’ll do nothing for the efficiency of your warehouse.

Reduce congestion

Organise external areas so that supply and delivery vehicles can come and go free of obstructions. Employees’ cars, pedestrian traffic and stored empty crates, cages and waste tend to be the usual culprits in this regard, and can damage productivity by doing so. Keep walkways and the staff car park well away from the delivery area, and assign places for empty storage units and waste. It’s much safer. When designing your warehouse, factor in possible future expansion so that your warehouse doesn’t become overcrowded.

Integrate packing and shipping stations

A traditional warehouse layout will have separate packing and shipping stations. First the order goes to the packing station, where it’s packed; then the worker sends it along the conveyor to the shipping station. There’s no reason, however, that packing stations and shipping ones can’t be combined. In fact, there are several advantages to it:

  • you can streamline fulfilment;
  • you use less labour;
  • you save space.

Save time by using cross docking

Instead of putting products on the shelf, only for your employees to retrieve them hours later, you can save time by implementing cross docking. Direct them to a temporary staging area for scanning and inventory. This process will work best with fast moving products.

Your temporary staging area should be close to the loading bay. When the goods are ready for the next leg of their journey, employees can retrieve them quickly and get them out of the door, and not have to look for them on the shelf.

Map out key processes

Mapping out key processes is an excellent starting point for improving your productivity. Create a visual. If it’s a picking process, for instance, here are some questions to consider:

  • How do the relevant people receive the order?
  • How do they travel?
  • What equipment do they use?
  • Are they parking the jack in the right place or the wrong one?
  • How many steps are they taking?
  • Are they grabbing more than one item at a time?

This is a superb opportunity to get input from your employees on how your warehouse can be more productive. When you’ve identified steps to cut out of the process, document the optimised process and use it to create a standard operating procedure (SOP) you can apply to other operations.

Visualise workflows with value stream mapping

Value stream mapping enables you to understand how things are working at present. This entails mapping workflows out visually. As a result, you can:

  • understand the relationship between different processes and how they interact with each other;
  • see how scheduling and departmental workflow impact operations;
  • identify possible gaps in processes.

This visual map can help you spot any materials you’re not storing effectively or which you’re handling too often. You can use the map to improve your layout and how items are stored, and to reduce the amount of handling of items. For instance, you can place slow-moving items at the back of the warehouse or on the top racks, whereas fast-moving ones should be much easier to reach.

tracking systems

Warehouses are implementing more and more technology to not only stay productive, but to keep up with demand. Tracking systems provide you with real-time info, help you optimise your warehouse and stay on top of what’s happening in your warehouse regarding inventory. Here’s some advice on these, too:

Use a warehouse management system

A warehouse management system (WMS) is one of the most powerful ways of bolstering productivity, if not the single most powerful way to do so, and can make your warehouse more efficient by suggesting the best routes and methods for picking and putting away. It can also create automated pick lists you can send to mobile readers and devices. This will help to eliminate errors and reduce wasted time and paper. You’ll be able to run a tidier, more sustainable warehouse.

WMSs also provide real-time visibility into your operations around the clock and help you to see what’s happening in the supply chain overall. The system centralises all the data and, depending on the software, may have tracking features for inventory, which will help you to reduce loss.

Make sure your warehouse management system has a user-friendly interface

If your WMS doesn’t have a user-friendly interface, your staff won’t be able to make the most of its capabilities. The WMS is there to speed up warehouse processes, but if it’s confusing and difficult to understand, it will have the opposite impact.

A good interface will allow you to access warehouse quantity levels, inventory location, shipping data, picking data and sales reports in just a few clicks. This is vital information, and if your WMS won’t allow you to navigate through it, it’s best not to invest in this software.

Equip staff with tracking devices

Surplus inventory takes up space in the warehouse and is a major expense. Equipping staff with good-quality tracking devices will help them (and your business) keep on top of inventory and reduce costs.

Accurate tracking of inventory also means you’ll have enough stock to complete orders for the current month and the following one. Without a good tracking system, items can easily become lost, and if products aren’t in stock, customers can get frustrated. Achieving a balance between stocking too much inventory and too little is important.

Review your technology

When you don’t review the technology available, the chances are you’ll miss out on something and be left with a legacy system that misses out on the advantages of modern systems; that being said, however, technology is advancing so fast that software and other tech will always have some new feature your current system doesn’t.

You need to review your technology, asking yourself the very important question: what am I missing out on? This assessment is a good way to identify if changing anything will be worthwhile. A new graphical interface may not make much difference to you, but if other systems generate pick routes and yours doesn’t, and if generating these routes would save you several hours or days of manual work, you need to upgrade your technology (or present your case for an upgrade, if you’re not the decision-maker).

 

Labelling systems

A clear, straightforward labelling system saves time by avoiding confusion, allowing employees to conduct their tasks more efficiently. No employee wants to waste time deciphering difficult labels, especially when order volumes are high. Here are some tips on keeping your warehouse employees productive by operating a good labelling system:

Follow industry labelling standards

There’s a reason why best practice is called ‘best practice’, and that’s just what it is: the best practice. Sticking with the best general approach when it comes to labelling is in your best interests.

All shelves in a warehouse should be numbered from the ground upwards, which gives the warehouse opportunity to grow, rather than wasting time renumbering the racks every time the warehouse grows. It’s also good to use at least two digits for every label number i.e. beginning with a zero on labels for numbers one to nine. This is so you can sort the labels alphabetically without making mistakes.

Keep consistent

However you label your inventory and the different areas of your warehouse, you must keep to the system in place. When you stray from the system, it can soon fall apart, causing confusion and a loss in productivity.

Scale your labelling system to your inventory

Scaling your labelling system to the size of your warehouse isn’t enough; you must scale it to the size of the goods in your inventory. In any warehouse labelling method, you should account for the items’ size. Warehouses that store bulk computer parts, for instance, are likely to require labelling systems that enable the workers to identify small pieces of tech.

Use proper labelling

An informative label leads to an efficiently run warehouse receiving operation; a poor label can lead to a loading dock that’s full of lost products and is highly inefficient. Regardless of the inventory system you use, your labels should feature some basic information:

  • the supplier’s name;
  • the purchase order number;
  • the pallet label and quantity;
  • the product number;
  • the description;
  • the package count;
  • the SKU.

quality check

Quality checking is crucial. Not checking items properly before they go out can result in dissatisfied customers and time lost on reverse logistics. Here are some tips for quality checking to improve your productivity:

Automation

Automation is one of the best decisions a warehouse operator can make. You can reduce your labour costs, boost productivity, increase accuracy and lessen errors. The smaller number of errors means more happy customers. There isn’t a business that wouldn’t want that, of course, so here are some tips for implementing automation in your warehouse:

Evaluate your needs before implementing an automated system

One of the biggest mistakes you can make when implementing automation is to not fully understand your needs before you implement it. It’s important to spend time evaluating the conditions in your warehouse, contemplate improvements and determine whether the automation will produce the desired outcome. You must make sure your automation software will meet your short- and long-term aims.

Reconsider automation options if they wouldn’t have worked for you previously

Your warehouse may be now in a better position to harness goods-to-person technology and robotic order fulfilment technology than before. These technologies have progressed and, today, automation is common in warehouses to reduce labour or leverage it, and is a key driver. Not only that, but a lot of automation technology can be acquired at a lower cost and be expanded as necessary, which lowers the initial investment and delivers a higher overall return on investment.

Adopt advanced systems

Warehouse managers have been left with few options to cut costs and raise productivity, which is why they’ve embraced robotic technology more than in some other industries. The wide range of automation-suitable tasks makes it appropriate for operators to adopt systems that are much more advanced than a typical manufacturing system when it comes to learning new tasks, identifying new tasks and combining routines.

Automate as much as possible

Automation must be worthwhile, but you should make the most of automation wherever you can. Bar codes, RFID tags and near-field-communication (NFC) technology are all potential options, so you should choose what works best for your inventory mix. This will provide you with always accurate counts and locations.

Consider using automated guided vehicles (AGVs)

AGVs have become a more common sight in warehouses, which use them to move items around the warehouse. They use vision, lasers or magnets for navigation. They can also use markers or wires on the floor to transport the items efficiently around the warehouse. Amazon uses a lot of robotics to automate picking and packaging processes in larger warehouses.

 

performing loading and unloading safely in warehouses with our modular rollerbed solution

If you’re looking for a safe, efficient way to move loads around your warehouse, as well as to load and unload them onto vehicles or from them, why not consider our Modular Rollerbed System, which we’ve designed especially for warehouses.

The system is exceptionally good for dealing with unit load devices (ULDs) and air cargo in general, and it’s possible to install the system within a day, allowing you to quickly transform your warehouse and reap the benefits of the system. You can load air cargo pallets onto trucks or off them in minutes without needing to use a forklift truck and generally move loads much more effortlessly around your warehouse.

The system’s modular design makes it highly flexible and allows you lots of freedom when it comes to deciding on a layout, which you can then change if you wish. The system is also pre-built with an aluminium platform and integrated pneumatic rise and fall roller tracks, so you don’t have to make any modifications or civil works to your existing structures. You can place the modular rollerbed on top of your floor easily, fix it with screws and then if you need to, remove it. This makes the system ideal if you’re renting the warehouse.

Safety in the warehouse is crucial, and you should never put efficiency before it. Doing so can cost you dearly in the long run. If you’d like to incorporate our modular rollerbed system into your warehouse and make your operations safe but at the same time enjoy even greater efficiency, contact us. We’ll be happy to advise you on incorporating the system into your structure and can also fit it for you.

Modular Rollerbed System Named As Finalist For Product Innovation Award 01 Modular Rollerbed System Named As Finalist For Product Innovation Award 01

air cargo news awards 2022

Joloda Hydraroll is delighted to announce that we have been named a finalist for the Air Cargo News Awards 2022: Innovation Award - Product. Our Modular Rollerbed Systems (MRS) is innovative and flexible and its tailorable design has and will continue to revolutionise the way air cargo handlers process ULD and PMC pallets.

The prestigious Air Cargo News Awards is dubbed as the Oscars of the airfreight industry – are back for 2022. The awards were launched in 1983 by leading trade publication Air Cargo News and recognise innovation and excellence in supply chains. Winning an award is a sign of being a market leader and recognition is given to the hard work of team members who help to inspire future performance.

Read more in our Modular Rollerbed System Named as Finalist for Product Innovation Award article.


Read More
Joloda Hydraroll Help Air Cargo Operators Maximise Handling Efficiencies 01 Joloda Hydraroll Help Air Cargo Operators Maximise Handling Efficiencies 01

CASE STUDY

Joloda Hydraroll help air cargo operators maximise handling efficiencies

Joloda Hydraroll has been busy helping air cargo logistics operator, Georgi Handling maximise their handling efficiencies in their new hub, based at Leipzig/Halle Airport with complete warehouse solutions.

Learn how we've been able to apply our proven rise and fall rollerbed technology into a new setting and see a business maximise their business efficiencies, whilst also improving the level of safety in the warehouse.

Read our full case study, Joloda Hydraroll Help Air Cargo Operators Maximise Handling Efficiencies here.


Read More

watch our modular rollerbed system in action

See our Modular Rollerbed System (MRS) in action, in this short video that explains how easy the modular platform is to set up and become operational.


Watch here

catch up on our latest news...

want help lightening your load?

Let's Chat