In a warehouse, speed and efficiency are essential for a successful operation. Warehouses that take too long to get orders out to customers run the risk of those customers never ordering again from the business. The good news is there are lots of different ways you can optimise your warehouse so that it runs more efficiently and you stand better chances of keeping your customers happy.

In this post, we’re going to discuss what warehouse optimisation is, the importance of it and look at ways you can optimise your own warehouse. We’ll also discuss some of our automated loading solutions which can help you to operate a warehouse and bring it closer to maximum efficiency.

In this post, we’re going to discuss what warehouse optimisation is, the importance of it and look at ways you can optimise your own warehouse. We’ll also discuss some of our automated loading solutions which can help you to operate a warehouse and bring it closer to maximum efficiency.

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what is warehouse optimisation?

Warehouse optimisation is a process in which a warehouse makes more efficient use of its time, space and resources by planning carefully and implementing automation. This optimisation improves customer satisfaction and experience.

Warehouse optimisation entails integrating all your overall processes to determine the best way to carry out and ship orders. You must consider the best way to receive orders, pick them and ship them.

On the supply side, inventory management, efficient handling, product flow, transportation and delivery are all important parts of optimisation. When it comes to the customers, the warehouse has to meet all the delivery deadlines and deal with any changes or problems that occur in the process.

why warehouse optimisation is essential

Warehouse optimisation is essential because your warehouse is the link between supply and demand in the business. Inefficient warehouse management can damage other parts of the business, from your daily operations through to your customer service. This is much different to an optimised warehouse, which not only fulfils orders and delivers them in a timely fashion, but also keeps the workers safe as they go about their duties in the warehouse. An unorganised warehouse can put workers at risk.

Here are several more reasons why optimisation of your warehouse is important:

Inventory management

Warehouses are a key part of a business’s success because they store the inventory, the most important part of the business. The internal processes must be as efficient as you can make them. This ensures you complete orders on time and, by way of an effective supply chain, minimise costs.

Optimising your warehouse makes it possible for you to make the best use of your warehouse space and to create a productive, profitable work environment; this should never come at the expense of safety, however.

Business growth

Your business could be new, or it could have been operating for several years. It doesn’t matter. The optimisation of your warehouse should guide internal procedures. Good warehouse optimisation serves as a foundation for business success, especially if you’re a new business.

If your warehouse is already fully functional, improving your warehouse optimisation can also have an impact for the better on your inventory management strategy. Warehouse optimisation gives you the chance to put right areas that aren’t performing to their full potential.

Mitigation of costs

Warehouses lose money every day for a variety of reasons: shipping out the wrong items, dealing with returns, inaccurate inventory count, human errors and more. At the root of these issues is a single cause: inefficient practices. A good warehouse management system (WMS), combined with a solid inventory management system, can mitigate mistakes.

Safety

An optimised warehouse makes for a much safer warehouse. Warehouse work entails handling materials, and workers must work with equipment such as forklift trucks and pallet jacks. If your warehouse structure doesn’t take into consideration the movement of these tools and the safety of the workers, this can be damaging for morale. It could even lead to claims on your insurance if one of your workers has an accident.

why you should want to achieve warehouse optimisation

If your business’s internal operations are going to succeed, you must make effective use of the space and, at the same time, keep your employees safe. This is one of the most challenging aspects of warehouse optimisation, if not the most challenging one. Even just the presence of safety precautions such as fire extinguishers, emergency exits, LED lighting and mirrors can provide psychological reassurance and comfort to employees.

the benefits of warehouse optimisation

Warehouse optimisation can have lots of benefits:

Greater efficiency

A better optimised warehouse will make it possible for you to get products in and out of the warehouse more quickly because you’ve organised the warehouse correctly. This will reduce the waiting times for your customers. It also means you’ll cut downtime because you have fewer inventory shortages.

Better safety

A cluttered warehouse is a more dangerous warehouse. If you organise everything correctly, hazards are easier to spot and avoid. The workplace will generally become safer, and there are fewer accidents.

More storage capacity

Your warehouse may be running at full capacity and not have enough room for all your inventory. If you optimise your space, you can increase your storage capacity and make use of every inch of space. As a result, you can improve your operations and reduce your costs.

Easier to find items

When you organise everything correctly, you can find items more easily. This saves time and increases productivity.

Greater productivity

Workers can move around the warehouse more easily when everything is in its place. Since they’re able to move around more quickly and more efficiently, they can be more productive.

Easier to manage inventory

You’ll be able to manage your inventory better if you organise it better. You’ll be able to track stock levels more efficiently and identify shortages quickly. As a result, you’ll have more control over your inventory and be able to reduce your costs.

Higher levels of employee morale

Organising your warehouse better creates a more positive work environment. Morale will be higher, and workers may be happier and more productive.

warehouse optimisation tips

Of course, there’s a whole load of different ways you can optimise your warehouse because of all the different aspects you can optimise. Here are some suggestions:

Optimising safety in your warehouse

Whether it’s a lack of accessibility in terms of equipment, inventory or something else, the potential increases for dangerous situations to materialise if there is one. Making your warehouse safe from the start creates an accessible, navigable working environment. This means ensuring you can store your inventory and equipment at all times. Safe storage should always be your priority when optimising your warehouse’s layout.

Your warehouse, equipment and inventory can all trigger safety-related issues. This may be the case even if everything appears to be in perfect condition; however, if something isn’t working exactly as it should it can lead to:

  • exposure to dangerous materials in the inventory;
  • incidents that involve faulty equipment;
  • fire, structural collapse or other emergency situations.

It’s important to provide employees with any safety equipment necessary. That means hard hats, goggles or any other equipment that keep to a minimum the danger of working with certain items.

Safety training

Safety training is a big part of helping to keep your warehouse safe as part of your warehouse optimisation. This keeps the workers safe and makes the facilities of the warehouse safer overall. You should train your workers in all aspects of warehouse operations:

  • correct use of tools and equipment;
  • safe, efficient navigation of the warehouse;
  • emergency protocols.

As an employer, it’s your responsibility to inform your employees of the safest practices and ensure they comply with them at all times, read our blog, The Ultimate Guide to Safe Loading and Unloading of Vehicles. To achieve this, you must develop specific protocols and procedures, and the documents must be clear, concise and specific. If a procedure hasn’t been followed, you must have a system for documenting this and do so regardless of whether the outcome was dangerous or not.

optimising the put-away process

The main aim of the put-away process is to transfer goods from the dock to the optimal place for storage. Getting this right is important because it affects the processes that follow. Here are some best practice tips for optimising your put-away process:

Collect real time data

In line with the aim of locating the best place in the warehouse for storage, collect data on the following:

  • size, weight and height of cargo;
  • receiving and shipping frequency;
  • cargo type;
  • order/sales volume;
  • storage availability.

Your warehouse management system should possess suitable data collection capabilities and on-going data analysis. From there, you should collect data as efficiently and accurately as possible so you can then avoid entry errors and reduce overheads.

Collect real time data

In line with the aim of locating the best place in the warehouse for storage, collect data on the following:

  • size, weight and height of cargo;
  • receiving and shipping frequency;
  • cargo type;
  • order/sales volume;
  • storage availability.

Your warehouse management system should possess suitable data collection capabilities and on-going data analysis. From there, you should collect data as efficiently and accurately as possible so you can then avoid entry errors and reduce overheads.

Monitor storage and space capacity

By monitoring and storing capacity, you can reduce travelling time. Warehouses can use barcode scanners and bin locations to track used/unused storage space across different zones. A lot of WMSs already do this; note this system is susceptible to human errors, however, because it relies on the warehouse employees scanning items every time they perform a put-away task or picking one.

Reducing travel time

Reducing travelling time is all about reducing the travel time of the goods from the receiving area to the storage one. To achieve this, you can conduct an ABC analysis to understand high volume/high frequency cargo to shipping areas. Then you can modify the warehouse layout to move this cargo to shipping areas and reduce travelling time.

Another way to reduce travelling time is to define the shortest path to storage locations. When doing this, consider distance, warehouse traffic congestion and possible conflicts with other operations that involve travelling.

Use direct put-away

Using direct put-away entails transferring goods directly from reception to their final location without putting them through the staging phase of the process. This approach speeds up the process and reduces handling and storage requirements. To accomplish this, your WMS must be able to assign locations from the point of delivery at the shipment dock or advance shipment notice (ASN).

Use fixed and dynamic locations

If possible, this is another approach you can implement to optimise your put-away process. A fixed location is a pre-determined storage space, such as an aisle, bin or warehouse zone, and is assigned by specific criteria. This could be a product category, final destination or customer. Having fixed locations increases efficiency because employees can memorise where exactly to put specific items of cargo.

The dynamic location creates flexibility by allowing employees to place items in the first place they see; you must have a good inventory management system to make this possible, however. That’s paramount for tracking items.

optimising warehouse cleaning

In the COVID-19 world, cleaning has become more important than ever and has heaped more pressure on warehouses; but keeping your warehouse clean can help operations to flow more smoothly and reduce costly errors. Here are some tips for better cleaning of your warehouse:



Create goals

One of the best ways to maintain clean, orderly workspaces in warehouses is by not leaving anything to chance. Implement a system that has clearly defined goals and assignments. If you need to split up a task, do so. Monday, for instance, could be the day you reorganise shelving: Tuesday, the day you clear excess waste; Wednesday, the one you mop low traffic areas; etc. Decide your goals, create your schedule and stick to it.

Take turns

You don’t want cluttered shelves or storage areas when the holidays are here. Be sure to move outdated stock out of the way constantly to keep areas free of clutter and optimise the warehouse for seasonal business.

Ensure your storage and shelving system is logical

It may sound a little obvious to implement a system that allows workers to know where everything is easily and get to it quickly, but not all warehouses do this. You should make your stocking and shelving system logical and efficient so that when a holiday season arrives, working in the warehouse doesn’t feel chaotic.

optimising warehouse picking

Optimised warehouse picking is indispensable because it can lower your stock management costs and, since you’re moving more goods through the warehouse, generate more revenue. Importantly, customers will receive their orders faster, which will increase their satisfaction and encourage them to make more purchases with you. Valuable benefits, we’re sure you’ll agree, so here are some tips to optimise your picking:

 

Focus on the flow of your warehouse

Organise your warehouse in line with the flow of goods through it. Each functional area should lead logically to the next, which then eliminates the need for an item to pass back through a later process on the way to an earlier one. Other good practices include hanging signage to help workers find items easier, keeping areas clean and organised, and ensuring aisles aren’t too narrow or too congested.

Identify key performance indicators (KPIs)

It’s hard to manage and improve something you can’t measure. Set KPIs to benchmark your operations. Many order picking KPIs cover:

  • space;
  • throughput;
  • accuracy;
  • labour.

Determine what to measure, how to measure it and how often you’ll measure it.

Use bins, totes and dividers

Whether you’ve stored your inventory on racks or shelves, items will be easier to find if you sub-divide the storage further into totes, bins or dividers. These options are especially good for storing bulk quantities of smaller items while allowing more items to be stored in the same space at the same time.

Choose the correct picking strategy

Choosing the right picking strategy — as long as it’s not one person picking one order at a time — will allow you to complete more order picks at the same time. Strategies you might wish to consider include:

  • batch picking, which involves grouping several orders that contain a lot of the same items and asking one worker to collect them all in one journey;
  • zone picking, in which different workers are assigned to different locations within the facility and pick only the items in their assigned area, before passing the tote onto the next part of the process;
  • wave picking, in which orders are grouped by specific criteria.

optimising warehouse packing

Packing orders in a warehouse is straightforward, but lots of things can slow packing down. Here are some tips for more optimised warehouse packing:

Pack one order at a time

This is the first method of efficient packing. If an order consists of more than one item, all the order items should reach the packing station at the same time. One item shouldn’t arrive before the rest. Otherwise, the person packing must wait for everything else to arrive to complete packing the order.

Avoid sacrificing accuracy

You may want to pack as many items as possible as quickly as possible, but don’t sacrifice accuracy. Getting orders wrong can lead to a dissatisfied customer who doesn’t want to order with you again. Double-check each order or use a WMS that recognises items by their barcode, ensures items are packed correctly and addresses shipping properly.

Improve speed in other areas

Packing is just one part of the system. From the placement of stock orders, through to packing and tracking deliveries, all parts of the system must work well. If not, this can slow the process down.

To help the process run smoothly, warehouse layout should maximise storage space and provide easy access to items. Items should be in stock, and pickers should be able to use WMSs to locate them swiftly so that packers can then pack them quickly. If a picking system is inefficient, a picker could bring a wrong item to the packer. The packer may notice this but will then have to wait for the picker to bring the correct item.

Review your packing materials

The type of materials used in packing can have an impact on the speed of the packing. What type of packing are you using? Boxes? Padded bags? Plastic, corrugated cardboard? Ask yourself whether this is the most efficient choice, as well as whether the sealing method is.

Think about the size of any boxes you’re using, too. Is it the most efficient? Does the packer have to add extra bubble wrap or other padding to stop items moving around during transit? Contemplate whether a smaller box could cut down on the time spent trying to protect the items.

Listen to your packers

Packers spend many hours packing, and they think about how to pack items faster. If you’re a manager or business owner, listen to their ideas about how to make the packing process faster or more efficient. Doing so could see you boost productivity and save money.

optimising your warehouse storage

Making the most of every inch of warehouse space is essential and must always be done safely. Here are some tips for optimising your warehouse storage space:

Extend vertically

This is one of the quickest, most straightforward ways to improve your space utilisation: note, however, that it does have pitfalls. The racking uprights or base uprights might not be the right size, so you should confirm with a structural engineer whether extending your racking vertically is viable.

Consider installing a mezzanine

Installing a mezzanine above your floor-level processes can double your storage space. Again, be aware of the pitfalls of this. Your mezzanine floor must be able to handle the floor loading. Columns and base plates may now drop to the floor and affect the processes below the mezzanine. Ideally, though, adding a mezzanine is better than expanding the building.

Reduce aisle width in the racking area

A wide aisle may range between around 10 and 12 feet, but if you can cut this to five to eight feet, you can save a pleasing percentage of space. You must consider lift equipment when thinking about reducing your wide aisles, though. Will the equipment be able to operate in these narrower aisles?

Look for under-used space

There’s likely to be space you never thought you had before. Make the most of it. Often, you’ll find space above receiving or shipping doors for slow-moving materials or pallet racks of supplies.

Assess and change your storage medium

Changing the storage medium to a higher density rack is another option for increasing your storage capacity. Switching from single-deep systems to double-deep ones is an example of this, but you’ll need a reach truck to load pallets. Drive-in racks are also higher-density alternatives. All of these are good options, but first in, first out (FIFO) becomes a problem because it becomes harder to access the pallets that are first in.

optimising shipping

Of course, you want to get orders out to customers as soon as possible. The quicker, the better (as long as the order is correct and addressed safely). Here are some tips for optimising your shipping process:

Understand and measure your costs and process

Constant analysis of the costs and the process is necessary to make savings and improvements. Be sure to know all your shipping costs and the process, and that the costs are all accounted for. Benchmark them against best practices so you can identify where to improve.

Automate box sizes

Some products might already arrive in boxes suitable for immediate shipping. Others might not. Often, products come in large boxes and need separating into individual orders, which can take a lot of time. Measure and weigh your products, and determine the best boxes to buy. Then take the packaging and move down the line, placing each item in the right sized box. This will streamline the packing process in your warehouse.

Reduce options

If you only have a few options available, you’re more likely to be efficient. Reducing the number of carriers available is one example where you could enjoy greater efficiency. Cutting the amount of package sizes is another. Standardise your processes and ensure they contain the least number of steps possible to execute them successfully.

Place your inventory strategically

Your customers are likely to be located worldwide, so it’s a good idea to place your inventory strategically. You’ll want to store inventory in multiple warehouses, rather than a single one. The closer you are to your customers, the lower your costs will be. You’ll also have shorter lead times.

Search for cheaper alternatives

There is always a cheaper way, so look continually to cut your costs. Start with the larger costs. If possible, renegotiate your freight and shipping costs. Discuss processes with employees and listen to the feedback. They work day in, day out with processes and will have valuable ideas on how to improve them.

Optimising your warehouse with our automated loading solutions

Safe, swift operation is the name of the game when it comes to loading and unloading trailers. You want to be able to get your goods out onto the road as quickly as possible and to unload items and clear the loading bay as swiftly as possible. Fortunately, we have some excellent Automated Loading Solutions that enable you to perform these tasks much faster without sacrificing safety. We provide three main options:

Moving Floor WHO Moving Floor WHO

Moving floor

The Moving Floor conveyor loading system is safe, straightforward and efficient, and can handle pallets of almost any size. It’s also just as handy when it comes to working with unpalletised goods such as tyres of whisky barrels.

The moving floor will help you load and unload your cargo in around two minutes and is extremely helpful during routine high volume loading operations. Since the system offers 100% end of line automation, there is no need for you or your employees to enter the trailer and the operation is safe. All you have to do is set up the floor in your trailer and load your pallets or other cargo onto the coils, which then transport them into the trailer (or out of it if your load is already inside).


Moving Floor
IMG 3105 IMG 3105

Slipchain

The Slipchain loading system is superb for addressing high volumes of loading and unloading your goods from the factory to your warehouse. The system is modular and durable, and features a pneumatic rise and fall chain with a rollertrack system. The design makes it easy to integrate into your trailer or existing structures, or to connect to a production line conveyor, and you’ll only have to make minimal adjustments. Just like the moving floor conveyor, the slipchain offers 100% end of line automation, so no employees need to enter the trailer, either on foot or in a forklift truck, which makes the slipchain safe to use and operate


Slipchain
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Trailerskate

The Trailerskate loading system is suitable for most businesses, but if you’re operating in the fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG), packing, food and drinks industries it will serve you especially well. Get ready for a boost in productivity and efficiency, all while being able to conduct your loading and unloading more safely.

The trailerskate system’s skates sit on a loading dock connected to the trailer floor and collects the pallets or other load. The system transfers the load to the skates, which then move them to the trailer or from it. The 100% end of line automation means loading or unloading doesn’t require any employees. The trailerskate is exceptionally safe during high volume loading, and exceptionally fast: it’s possible to load as many as 26 pallets in around two minutes.


Trailerskate

summary

There are so many different ways you can optimise your warehouse to increase productivity, boost customer satisfaction and cut costs. If you’d like to implement one of our automated loading solutions to achieve this, contact our friendly customer service team. We’ll be happy to chat to you and discuss the right solution for your warehouse.


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