Supply chain activities are tightly connected with efficient warehousing operations and logistics best practices for designing the latter. Warehouses have become complex microcosms in the world of global trade and distribution. They are no longer just places where merchandize is stored and taken out for deliveries. They are distribution hubs, connecting retail stores with manufacturing facilities or large harbors and facilitating a smooth and continuous flow of products.
Is Your Warehouse Design an Obstacle to Seamless Supply Chain Operations?
For the logistics specialists at Logistic Packaging, the first look at a warehouse buzzing with activity is enough to identify the first potential causes for an inefficient supply chain and high logistics costs. In a world where man and machine work together side by side, closer than ever, it is of the greatest importance to plan the layout of the warehouse so that both of them can do their duties unhindered.
Lack of proper shelf labeling, inadequate aisle width, lack of designated areas for loading/unloading are just as detrimental to efficient warehouse operations as, for instance, not using a FIFO system in your delivery services.
Logistics Best Practices in Warehousing: The Key Principles
The principles we will present below are just a starting point. You should elaborate them and adapt them to the particular specifics of your industry and daily supply chain operations.
1.Make the Best Use of Vertical Space
Warehouse equipment such as forklift trucks, discharging systems for pallet boxes and other lifting machines help your employees handle containers and palletized merchandize on high shelves, way above the head level. These machines were developed exactly for this reason: to help companies save space by building racking systems vertically, not horizontally.
In this manner, you can afford larger aisles between shelves, which allow both pedestrian employees and motorized vehicles to pass side by side, without the risk of accidents and without slowing down the activity.
2.Optimize Loading and Unloading Times
Warehouse space is extremely valuable, but many companies waste it because they did not optimize the truck loading/unloading times. How much space is taken up by palletized merchandize waiting to be loaded? How many times do you have to tell truck drivers to wait just outside your warehouse because all the loading docks are occupied?
The use of mechanized equipment for loading and unloading is the right choice for efficient warehousing operations. Manual labor is slow and can also result in accidents causing injuries and material damages.
3. Invest in Latest Generation Large Equipment and Facilities
Once you have installed shelves and ordered a batch of large and expensive warehousing equipment, they will serve you for at least 10 years; otherwise you will not recover your investment. When you are searching for these types of facilities and equipment, comparing offers, ask yourself: will they serve me well 9-10 years from now? Or will they be obsolete?
Logistics best practices teach warehouse managers to be prepared to pay a higher price for latest technology than accept a discount offer for equipment which is about to be phased out from production. Old technology will cost you more in terms of lack of precision, speed and reliability than innovative equipment, built to serve you for a long time and help you meet your customers’ expectations.
4.Organize Your Warehouse for Order Picking
Order picking should be the primary activity you have in mind when you start designating specific areas in your warehouse and installing shelves. The key principle of this philosophy is that your employees should travel the shortest distance possible to pack an order and bring the filled containers to the loading dock.
In logistics best practices, this translates into having your stock of packaging materials available close by the area where merchandize is taken out of large storage containers, next to dolly transfer pallets and trolley which bring the packaged products to the truck. Organizing your areas by purpose is not as easy as it seems. This is why it helps having an activity flowchart ready, and using it to map your warehouse space.
5.Use Adequate Warehouse Management Systems
Warehouse management software, like every kind of business software, needs to be selected to fit your specific needs. It is a long term investment, and it is always advisable to pick the right software suite from the start than to change it and lose time and (possibly) data during migration.
This is why you need to find a software provider who offers you consultancy and recommends a product version or plan which contains the functions and tools you really need.