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No matter how well your warehouse works, most warehouse managers are always looking for ways to get things done easier and more effectively.

Whether you’re streamlining processes, hiring extra staff to increase productivity, or just finding a way to remove bottlenecks and get those boxes on the truck more quickly, working towards a lean warehouse should be a goal of all managers. Your productivity will increase, your bottom line could improve, and you might just be surprised at how easy the whole process is. Here’s a few ways to get your warehouse into fighting shape:


Implement Value Stream Mapping (VSM)

Value stream mapping is a process that shows the flow of products and workers through a warehouse en route to their destination. VSM maps out the warehouse and tracks where items go when they arrive, what happens to them along the way, and where they end up once the process completes. This can provide a much better understanding of how work is done in your warehouse, what can be done to make it better, and how to improve issues like inventory loss and overall warehouse layout.


Proactive inventory management

A big source of warehouse stress is the amount of items that accumulate after a long time, often with nowhere to send them other than the shelves in the back. By keeping an eye on your incoming shipments and reducing the amount of overstock, you can do a lot to reduce the amount of time spent organizing shipments and putting unneeded items away. For older items, or items that aren’t consistently as popular as others, contact your distributors to order smaller quantities or provide reduced shipping counts so they’re not all piling up and taking away valuable space.


Better/more organization

It might sound like an obvious answer, but you’d be surprised how many warehouse management issues can be solved by increased organization. By installing more wire shelves, pallet racks, and other types of industrial shelving, you can alleviate congestion and keep things organized. Making sure everything has a home is crucial to maintaining a smoothly-flowing and efficient warehouse.


Reduce the amount of hands on an item

Scaling back on the amount of steps (or ‘touches’) an items takes as it works through your warehouse is going to go a long way towards more effective inventory management. The more times an item is handled, the longer the handling takes, and the greater the costs to your warehouse overall. After an item arrives at your warehouse, cut down on the amount of people that need to handle it between the loading dock and its destination on your shelves, ideally moving it straight from point A to point B after it gets checked in.


Leave the counting to the computers

Computer-based inventory tracking is a must in any modern warehouse. By introducing an RFID or barcode scanner to track incoming packages and verify the number of on-hand items, you can get a far more accurate idea of what your inventory levels are and reduce the amount of time your workers need to spend tracking down an item during picking, and more quickly understand when an item is in short supply.


Revise your pull systems

Finally, one of the most common (and biggest) bottlenecks a warehouse can encounter is difficulty in managing inventory pulls. There’s several steps that can be taken to improve pull systems, from the subtle to the warehouse-wide. For example, you might consider abandoning a FIFO (first-in-first-out) method for one that focuses on how quickly the items are sold; fast-moving items should be located in areas that are easier to access than items that aren’t sold as often. Other more intricate processes can be implemented through the warehouse in extreme cases, such as the Japanese method of “kanban” that uses visual indicator cards throughout the warehouse to manage the flow of orders, items, and needed parts/supplies through the warehouse.

By implementing these strategies when and where you need, your warehouse can increase productivity while eliminating unneeded processes and streamlining your efforts.

2 Responses to “Lean Warehousing: How to Work More Effectively & Reduce Wasted Effort”

  1. Virginia says:

    Thanks so much for sharing!

  2. Jason Darnstaedt says:

    What it really comes down to is access to data. Utilizing a warehouse management system that tracks everything and allows you to see exactly what’s going on. Without this data, it’s hard to “see” everything clearly and improve processes.

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