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Some days it feels like no matter how hard you work to optimize your warehouse, there’s always a few things standing in the way of productivity.

It’s nobody’s fault – your staff works as hard as they can with the tools they have, and there’s some tasks that are always going to take longer than others just due to the nature of the warehousing business. All the same, there’s still times that you review your recent productivity and workflow and think to yourself “what could we have done better here?”

Don’t despair! There’s always ways to squeeze a little more productivity out of your workflow and cut down on time and cost overheads, even if it’s by smaller metrics. If you want some ideas on a faster warehouse workflow, we’ve got a few right here for you:

Digitize as much as possible.

A lot of warehouse managers are awfully proud of their digital inventory tracking strategies, but in a lot of cases there’s still room for further improvement and optimization. Make sure every step of your inventory tracking routine is digital, from the counts you perform while receiving shipments to the way you perform full-scale inventory checks later, as well as tracking any orders that come in to change the numbers in the meantime. The less human involvement you have in your ordering process, the easier – and faster – the process is going to be.

Make all labels scannable.

Working in a warehouse involves a lot of labels, stickers, and the like. By making sure these labels are scannable with handheld barcode devices (be it a scanner gun, an iPod, or anything similar) and getting them printed up every time you get new shipments in will allow you to track item movements, inbound shipment, and inventory counts much, much faster. You’d be surprised how many warehouses haven’t taken this step yet, or at least don’t do it to the degree they ought to.

Keep your aisles free and traversable.

Sure, everyone needs a clean warehouse to work in, but in addition to all the safety benefits that clear aisles provide, having an easy-to-travel workplace free of obstructions will help your staff get where they’re going more easily and get things done faster. Leave enough room between things like pallet racks, steel shelves, and gravity flow racks for your workers to travel safely and unimpeded to make sure they can get things done and get where they’re going quickly.

Consider switching to directed putaway.

All warehouses, whether they’ve planned it out or not, have a putaway system in place already simply due to how work gets done. There’s a lot of varieties to this, however, and one of the most effective and usable ones is called directed putaway. This is a system in which all space usage is managed by a digital inventory tracker that regulates where items are placed and what space remains for pallets and inventory to be stored upon. So long as everyone is properly trained and the system is configured correctly, this can be a huge time-saver in the long run to prevent workers from driving in circles to find an empty spot for pallets or something.

Rearrange according to need.

This one is a big upfront time investment and is best done during a slow season to not interfere with other business operations, but careful placement of your inventory in regards to where it’s most needed will pay off in the long run. Move your most-frequently picked items closer to the shipping area, keep bulk/excess storage farther away from heavily-trafficked areas to prevent congestion and/or lost items, and review your sales data as often as possible to make sure the items kept near the shipping area are the items that need to be there.

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