A successful business is something of a double-edged sword: as demand increases and your popularity rises, you probably find yourself having a harder time keeping up.

Sure, there’s worse problems to have (better to be too busy than not busy enough, one might say) but it does provide an awful lot of operational issues you might encounter during your… growth spurt.

Sudden changes in business or income can derail even the best-laid plans for managing a warehouse, and the struggle to keep up can leave you behind your competition. If your warehouse is experiencing some growing pains and you’re just trying to get a good plan together to keep things moving, we’ve got a few strategies to help keep your growth positive:

 

Forecast labor needs. One of the first areas that will need review when the time comes for expansion is your current labor force and staffing. A lot of warehouses make the mistake of simply hiring more bodies to fill the various needs that arise, and while more staff (usually) isn’t a bad thing, you need to make sure you’re hiring the right bodies. Identify what specific needs your staff levels have as your business expands—management, floor staff, maintenance workers, etc—and make sure to focus on the areas of need instead of doing a big scattershot hiring push and winding up with a surplus of workers.

 

Keep your inventory visible and transparent. We don’t just mean in a physical sense (although keeping your pallet racks clean and organized enough to see everything is never a bad idea); you need to make sure your inventory reporting at all levels is optimized to keep up with the increased demand. Perform more frequent inventory checks as needed based upon the popularity of the item to avoid out-of-stocks and/or excess inventory, and make sure this information is communicated to your customers to avoid orders placed in error. Nothing will scare off customers faster than inaccurate stock information.

 

Review your current picking methods. It’s human nature to ‘stick with what works’, but as needs increase and orders ramp up, your old methods for picking items and packaging orders might not work quite like they used to. As your staff levels increase and your orders-per-day starts to climb, considering moving to a batch-picking method to gather items more quickly, or if you have the time to implement discrete picking you can potentially use that method to cut down on order errors. Find what works best for your specific circumstances and commit to it.

 

Get critical. When your warehouse was just starting out it was probably a lot easier to overlook things like unsold stock, but as your popularity ramps up you might find yourself with too many items and not enough space. Perform more frequent audits of slow movers and seasonal items and get ready to make the hard calls in regards to what gets clearanced, sent back, and so on. Your bottom line and available floor space will thank you.

 

Pace yourself. Finally, in times of large business upswings, the temptation can be there to rush everything and try to grow before it’s really necessary. Set long-term, achievable goals throughout your planning stages such as infrastructure (both digitally and physically), staffing levels, and sales growth and work slowly to achieve them. The temptation of instant results will always be strong, but the risks outweigh the rewards in most cases and could cause complications for your business down the road. Stick with what you know and remember the old cliche: work smarter, not harder.

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