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Few things are as important to the success and efficiency of a warehouse than proper product flow management. Whatever it is your warehouse stocks, there’s always going to be a lot of products moving into and out of it, and managing this constant influx of inventory is crucial to maintaining customer satisfaction, product rotation, and proper delivery metrics.

The problem, however, is that product flow tends to go overlooked. A lot of warehouse managers fall into the trap of thinking their work is done so long as products are coming in and shipping out on time, but the truth is there’s many steps in the process that could stand to be optimized a little better. By implementing better product flow management strategies, you can solve a lot of operational issues in your warehouse and increase efficiency across the board.


Decide on a flow shape

Warehouse product flow strategies tend to stem from one of two different designs: a U-shaped product flow and an L-shaped product flow. The layouts get their name from the shape that the physical layouts take; U-shaped product flows (the more common of the two) arrange their warehouse storage in a ‘U’ shape around both the shipping and receiving areas to allow shared usage of resources like personnel and material handling supplies, as well as enabling cross-docking to cut down on product handling time overall. L-shaped flows, on the other hand, locate shipping and receiving areas on different sides of the warehouse to allow for increased storage space, heightened security, and larger sorting areas for any incoming or outgoing products. Figure out which of these two flows works best for you and plan your warehouse around it.


Monitor transactions more closely

Every time product moves throughout a warehouse, there’s always a chance you can lose track of the inventory you’re shifting. Things like arrival, slot-placement, or even picking can cause inventory discrepancies, and keeping an eye on these areas is crucial for maintaining inventory flow. Perform more frequent counts and implement policies to ensure all of the items that were scheduled to be in an area have arrived correctly – and budget time to investigate and/or correct any errors that crop up.


Reduce dock arrival times

All merchandise should be tracked as having arrived at the dock as soon as the truck arrives, helping to reduce wasted space by moving products to their final destination as opposed to keeping them in a staging area, unmoving. Additionally, different types of shipments such as full pallets, cases, and individual items need to be sent to their destination, (docks, pallet racks, etc) simultaneously to cut down on travel time.


Be flexible with picking procedures

Above and beyond picking the orders as they arrive, your picking strategy should be flexible enough to look forward to the next wave of picking. For example, if an upcoming wave will result in picking shortages in another part of the warehouse, pickers should be diverted from lower-priority duties to fill the labor gaps and help out. This will help maintain picking times and make sure every shipment leaves the warehouse when it’s supposed to.

By focusing on these core areas, you can improve product flow throughout the entire facility and help maintain operational efficiency even after optimizing several other areas of your warehouse.

One Response to “Product Flow Management & Warehouse Optimization”

  1. Saiyad Gulbaz says:

    Very well said point that the product flow if overlooked in warehouse inventory can greatly impact the business. Hence, having a proper system of storage and record keeping should be there to optimize the work flow at warehouses.

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