The Top 5 Warehouse Management Practices of 2021.
(8 Minute Read Time)
By 2021, the global market for automated warehouse management solutions is expected to be a staggering $22bn industry (RFgen). So, with warehouse automation increasingly on the agenda for wholesaler, plus the number of orders warehouses are fulfilling directly, what does this mean for your warehouse?
Firstly, if you are asking yourself, what are warehouse management solutions? Quite simply, a warehouse management solution is the implementation of technology into your warehouse to automate management and processes. This can be realised in a number of ways, from robotics right the way through to ensuring technology supports, helps control and optimise the warehouse operation. With heightened businesses competition, to ensure that your warehouse, distribution and/or wholesale operation is fully optimised - technology allows you to stay ahead of the game and future proof your processes. Automated warehouse management solutions are certainly the way to go.
As with any new technology implementation, there can be a number of challenges that we see our customers face. From replacing legacy solutions, to enabling organisation-wide adoption, we understand the vital importance of getting the right solution in-place for your business.
To guide your decision, and to give some real-world examples, read on for our top 5 warehouse management practices of 2021:
- Effective Storage Utilisation
Warehouse operations are like a well oiled machine, where each part of the operation relies on the one before being faultness. This begins right at the beginning of the chain, where the goods arrive into the warehouse. Well in actual fact when the order to purchase the goods is raised. So right from the outset, ensuring that purchasing/finance and operations are seemlessly linked-up is crucial.
When the goods do arrive, the first operational process at goods-in is booking in the stock to put away. To ensure this part of the operation runs well, there are a number of things that need to be considered.
Firstly, accurately reconciling the stock against the PO (purchase order) means that inventory can then intellignetly be put away in the correct quantities/volumes.
Next selecting the location of the items is crucial to making the picking process as fast and efficient as possible. Items that are more frequently picked should be placed in easy to access locations, while less popular items should be stored in the more remote isles.
The logic of where stock can be stored is also important in regards to health and safety, especially with reactive or allergen products. So if you have the requirement to organise and store certain items either together or definitively apart to avoid potentially hazardous situations, being supported in the put-away process to ensure this happens is vital. Also taking into account storage locations and pick-logic for perishable items such as food helps maximise storage utilisation.
Storage utilisation can be an incredibly complex task for warehouse management to organise; technology is now coming into play which automates and assists in this process. Innware is able to enable the control of storage in an efficient and safe way. Innware is able to identify and control picker behaviour & align processes with organisation goals.
- Stock Replenishment Alerts
In warehousing and distribution, stock replenishment can be a tricky task to manage, and is an imperative part of the process to keep operations running as smoothly as possible. When it comes to the replenishment of stock, there is a fine line between risky understocking, and expensive overstocking. Over stocking equates to a significant amount of unnecessary spend for organisations, in fact, in 2015 alone, overstocking to businesses equated to an eye-watering $470 globally (IHL Group). Again the strong relationship between operations and finance rings true.
Finding the right stock balance can understandably be hugely challenging for management, as it takes a significant amount of time to understand the ever-changing customer behaviour and matcg the demand against stock. Utilising historic data to forecast levels is something that requires seriously thought.
This is where automation and technology can come in to transform the reliability of stock levels.
Many organisations are now opting for automated warehouse management solutions to track stock levels and automatically line-up replacement stock when necessary. This can even be managed in-line with historical order data. With Innware, your team can have stock quantity visibility across your entire operation, receive alerts when stock products hit minimum thresholds and raise replenishment requests directly as a call to action.
- Improved Waste Management
Warehouses, wholesalers and distributors are criticised for the industry’s significant contribution to the 10.2 million tonnes of food waste that the UK produces each year (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs).
A large proportion of this waste comes not from the packing or delivery of goods, but from stock disposal too. This can be due to a number of factors, from perishable goods sitting past their expiry date to unchecked overstocking. Due to public and governmental pressure on reducing waste, many organisations are turning to better stock management as a solution to not only comply with eco-friendly ways of the modern world/consumers, but also to improve margins - less waste is more profit.
For example, our innware solution focuses heavily on waste reduction, and offers best before date or use by date management with FIFO (first-in, first-out) picking with batch and serial traceability. Our automated warehouse management solution gives an accurate visual of all stock, and provides precise and clear instructions of where exactly to pick from reducing waste.
- Product Damage Mitigation
For warehouses, distribution and wholesalers it is traditionally common for stock to be damaged when being picked. Particularly in warehouses, when picking and packing pallets, it is incredibly frequent for pick instructions to be given based solely on an optimum picking route.
Optimum picking simply refers to increasing a picker's picks per hour, and often the picking route is number driven without much consideration for qualatitive measures such as preventing product damage. Ineffective data use means that it is frequent for pickers to be given heavier products which are simply unsuitable to be packed on top of smaller items; thus unnecessarily damaging them.
Although picking optimisation is key to efficiency in a warehouse, it is also crucial to consider reworking picking routes to pick heavier items first, and leave the lighter items until the end. A more pragmatic way to overcome this is also different types of picking. Picking a single order or multiple orders simulatenously drives speed, even consider consolidated picking of multiple orders for a single customer for heightened fulfilment. But on top of those pick types, innware additionally enables organisations to pick an entire pallet or bulk pick the same item (with orders assembled elswhere). The trade off for damage limitation, doesn't necessarily have to be efficency, by simply finding a smarter way to operate.
Innovative warehousing technology is being implemented to strike the balance between speed and quality; whilst it is important to reduce product damage as much as possible, one of the ultimate solutions in warehouse optimisation is to optimise picking.
- Maintaining and Upgrading Equipment
When managing a storage warehouse, distribution centre or wholesale operation it is crucial to optimise your space as much as possible, as we have discussed. This means that narrow aisles are also common in many warehouses.
Technology is becoming more advanced with machinery helping to maintain the balance between optimising your warehouse space and keeping operations working like a well-oiled machine more achievable than ever. Modern narrow aisle forklifts are so compact they are capable of comfortably fitting through a standard sized doorway.
And whilst opertations are conducted in tighter spaces, the fallout from COVID for physical distancing in managing your warehouse space isn't just about inventory. Yet again technology can assist here too, with technology such as proximity detection that helps ensure the proximity between handheld devices and logs alerts, allowing pick workers to promote distancing and adherence to safety guidelines.
In warehouse management, investing in up-to-date machinery, technology and IT solutions is key to optimising your organisation's warehouse space productivity and future-proofing process.
Given that the number of orders placed and the number of shoppers is only forecast to increase, it is as imperative as ever to scrutinise your operations to ensure the supply chain is as efficient as possible. Common warehouse mistakes such as poor stock management, poor layout and overstocking cost organisations in the UK millions of pounds each year, so for many it’s worthwhile to front the costs of a warehouse management system to save money in the medium-long term and partnering on that journey with an experienced solution provider is imperitive.
Innov8 and our warehouse management software innware, have enabled numerous customers to operate smarter, accelerate expansion and grow. We have over 20 years of experience working in the IT industry bringing solutions to warehouses, distribution and wholesale businesses. We love working with organisations to deliver cutting-edge warehouse management solutions capable of rising to future challenges of warehousing and distribution.