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When it comes to warehouse management, efficiency within the inventory workflow is essential to increase net profits. Better efficiency translates into fewer expenses within the warehouse. You’ll save time, streamline personnel, and manage investments in materials and goods more carefully than before. It’s all part of improving inventory workflow.
Tips to Improve Inventory Workflow
An efficient warehouse hums along without interruption. Goods move from receiving into the stock area. Shelves are neatly labeled. Workers use automation such as barcode scanners, headsets for hands-free picking, and other new technologies to save time and effort.
Perhaps you have all these innovations in your warehouse—or maybe you’re still a small, up and coming business with limited funds. That’s okay, too. You can still use these techniques to improve inventory workflow. They work in all sizes of warehouses, both big and small.
- Review inventory procedures.
Do you have written inventory procedures? There should be a written process for every stage of inventory workflow, including receiving, picking, packing, and shipping.
If you do not have written inventory procedures, now’s the time to tackle them before the crazy weeks leading up to the holidays begin. If you do have such systems, take the time to sit with the teams using the procedures daily, and ask for their advice and input. These are the people who should determine with you what’s working and what’s not. They’re the ones accountable for the tasks each process addresses, and if something works well, they know—and they can tell you what needs to be fixed as well.
- Walk the warehouse with the picking team.
An exercise that might be helpful is to walk alongside a member of the picking team and watch how the staff picks orders. You may notice several things that are keeping your team from achieving maximum efficiency.
For example, if the picking slip they print out from the ordering system doesn’t list items in the order in which they appear in the warehouse, the picking team member may walk for several extra minutes out of their way to add items to their tray bin or trolley. That may not seem like a lot, but when you add it up throughout an 8-hour shift or a 40-hour workweek, you realize how a few tweaks in the warehouse layout can shave minutes off the picking process.
- Review and adjust the warehouse layout.
Warehouses get messy quickly, especially during peak demand periods when goods shift in and out frequently. Review your warehouse layout periodically and adjust shelves, bins, and labels as needed.
You may need to move high-demand items closer to the shipping station. Add-on parts that are often ordered with an item may be moved closer to that item to make picking easier. Reviewing order reports from your warehouse system and comparing them to the warehouse layout can help you decide what, if anything, needs to be moved to improve efficiency.
- Identify potential bottlenecks.
Along with getting messy over time, warehouses often develop bottlenecks. Removing those bottlenecks helps improve inventory workflow.
One common bottleneck is the receiving area. Workers are so concerned with shipping out pending orders that they forget to scan new goods into inventory. Be sure that you aren’t just rewarding workers for speed to order but also monitoring and rewarding the receiving crew, too.
Another area for potential bottlenecks is the returns and damages area. Goods tend to accumulate in these areas unless someone is assigned the responsibility of examining and assigning them a final destination. Returned items may be in good condition and returned to the stocking area, assigned a special sale price, or consigned to the “damages” bin for a write-off, but someone needs to make the decision about them.
Warehouse Management Systems for Better Inventory Workflow Enhancements
Take control of your warehouse before it takes control of your business! If ensuring better inventory workflow and warehouse management is on your priority list, download these free white papers from Mindover Software.
Mindover Software provides sales, support, and implementation of Acumatica, Sage, and other software. We offer ERP, accounting, warehouse management, and many other software tools to help you improve productivity and efficiency. For more information, please contact Mindover Software today at 512-990-3994 to learn more.