Efficiency is about getting results with minimal energy and resources used. Often the result is about getting from point A to point B with minimal waste of time and effort.
This applies to warehouse management but the difference is that the environment is much more complex and dynamic. There are a lot of travels from point A to point B and beyond. In addition, the variation in the cargo and destinations make warehouse management a huge challenge even to seasoned managers.
Australia’s transport and logistic industry has an estimated annual revenue of over $95 billion and employs nearly half a million people in various sub-sectors and capacities. On the other hand, Australia’s retail industry (which has logistics and transport as the industry’s backbone) accounts for the country’s 10.7% employment and 4.1% of GDP.
As a result, making all warehouses a bit more efficient can translate to millions of dollars of savings. This can contribute to the bottom-line of the company and pass on the savings to the customers. In addition, the velocity of moving money will be a lot higher thereby leading to a more vibrant economy.
This is about getting things done in an efficient way. As a result, it’s important to focus on time and the tendency to waste it. Not everyone may agree about the saying “Time is gold” but in warehouse management operations, time is the best asset and tool of the managers and crew. For instance, an inefficient warehouse tends to waste a lot of time because the floor plan encourages unnecessary travels (e.g. fast-moving goods are placed at the farthest from the loading and unloading docks). Because of the unnecessary amount of time spent, this adds to fuel or energy costs in operating the forklifts. Fewer things get done and the drivers may experience fatigue because of the setup.
Start with the space to save time
A proper warehouse layout and floorplan will beat sophisticated mathematical planning any time of the day. It doesn’t matter if there are strict time limits and operation on forklifts and how the goods are loaded and carried if there’s something wrong with the floor plan in the first place.
It’s easy to implement the dream layout if you’re starting from scratch. But what if you already have an established warehouse? Is it still worth it to rearrange the shelves and racks? The short answer is yes. Improving workspace always yields a high return on investment. After all, managers and staff will be using the space every day.
How space is designed and arranged has a huge impact on how much time is spent in various warehouse activities. If we can cut the travel times down to half because we’ve improved the layout, this translates to huge cost, fuel and time savings. In addition, there will be less unnecessary motion which paves the way for fewer collisions and accidents. A lot of things just could go wrong because of the high frequency of forklift movements and long-distance transport.
If you’re the business owner you might have started from an empty space just like the most. But as your company grew and you handled more orders, that empty space slowly had transformed into a crowded one. There had been no time to organise the warehouse because everyone’s busy with sales and customer service. Perhaps from time to time, you considered moving into a bigger warehouse so you can have a fresh start and have more space for the products.
The good thing is there’s a chance you don’t have to do that. You can save up to half of your floor space if the shelves are mobile and the rows are only opened up when needed. This way you won’t need a bigger premise to accommodate more products and shelves. You will save on rent while achieving better efficiency because you’re still working on the same warehouse (a bigger warehouse will increase travel times and distances).
Product placement and inventory management
Earlier we mentioned about placing the fast-moving goods near the loading or unloading docks to reduce travel distances and times. This is also about saving time and minimising unnecessary travels and movements.
But what about inventory management? There are many focused and dedicated books for inventory management alone because it’s a complex topic in itself. The thing to remember here is that the ultimate goal is resale. The goods stored should be sold as soon as possible. Time is money here because we’re paying rent for the use of the warehouse. If the goods stayed for far longer than what’s acceptable, the goods are actually eating up money.
The ideal is to have a continuous flow of goods being accepted and delivered similar to how water flows through the pipes. However, inventory is necessary to act as a buffer and for better management. But still, the goal is to achieve a smooth flow and speed it up as much as possible. To somehow accomplish that, it helps to be better at demand forecasting so we know the optimal times, frequencies and amounts to order and stock up. It’s also important to have reliable, accurate and real-time tracking of the physical movement and status change of all items. This way we can know the number of items (and what kind) still available and compare it with the forecasted demand or existing orders.
Warehouse safety is also important because accidents take up huge amounts of time. For instance, forklift accidents result in costly downtimes. Work should be stopped to attend to the injured and repair the damages in the material handling equipment and the facilities. Those accidents can damage the forklift and will require parts repair and maintenance or even total replacement.
More importantly, it’s about the safety of the workers. We can always aim for a zero-accident workplace and minimise the number of incidents. This requires a concerted and continuous effort because of the warehouse operations being dynamic and evolving.
Here at ShockWatch, we have modern technological solutions to help improve warehouse safety. Our solutions have already helped small businesses and multinational corporations reduce the number of incidents, improve worker safety and achieve a more efficient workplace. Contact us today for more information.