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As the English author Douglas Adams once said, “I love deadlines. I like the whooshing sound they make as they fly by.”

If you’ve been a warehouse manager, designer, or staff member for any amount of time, this quote probably hits home a little more than you’d like. Warehouses of any type, from retail to pharmaceuticals to food storage, all have their own KPIs and deadlines they need to hit for the sake of their overall supply chain, as well as their relationship with their partners.

Anyone who has to manage KPIs, however, knows this is often easier said than done. There could be many causes for missed deadlines when it comes to both shipping and receiving, but a surprisingly common cause can come down to the layout & operational process of the warehouse itself.

How Does Warehouse Management Affect KPIs?


The overall operations of your warehouse can have an impact on how quickly inventory or items can get processed. Think about the last time you had a large order come in, or an order for a SKU that doesn’t move as quickly. Did your team have a harder time locating these items, or getting them ready to safely ship out – and if so, did that impact how close you were to shipping them out on time?

As much as we all like to blame larger issues (too big an order, overly-demanding KPIs), in a lot of cases, the layout and processes of your warehouse can be a contributing factor:

  • Poorly optimized warehouse layout can make it harder to find items, delaying the overall time-to-ship for each of them 
  • Similarly, badly planned picking methods can prevent workers from getting to the items they need, when they need them
  • Inaccurate prioritization of shipments can lead to certain high-priority/higher-KPI orders being moved further back in the process, leading to missed deadlines as other orders are accidentally processed first
  • Inefficient order picking strategies could delay the handling of all orders in the pipeline, preventing the most important ones from being handled when needed

While many factors can play into missed order deadlines and slipped KPIs, it may be time to review your overall warehouse processes and layout to see if the problem is coming from within.

Review Your Warehouse Processes & Layout to Avoid Missed Deadlines


Starting to think you might be able to make a change in your warehouse operations to help meet your KPIs better? Here’s a few questions you can ask yourself:

Am I prioritizing the right shipments? Especially when it comes to business-facing SLAs with other retail outlets or fulfillment centers, having a properly-defined priority for what shipments need to go out, and when, can make a big difference in meeting your deadlines. As orders or requests come in, take a careful look at what your customers want to ship next (and how much they’re shipping), the SLA of the order or client, and any allocation rules in place, and reprioritize your picking/shipping orders accordingly. 

Are my shipments optimized? Sometimes an issue with your shipments can boil down to the techniques your team uses to pick your items. Can your teams find the items they need, as quickly as possible? Do your picking methods involve too many extra steps (verification, passing off to other departments, etc)? Can you quickly convey to your team which shipment is prioritized to be picked next (as per your shipment priority, as mentioned above)? Answering these questions can help you uncover any potential trouble spots in your picking & packing optimizations.

Are your picking wave sizes limiting your teams? Depending on your individual SLAs (as well as how they tend to be enforced/managed), you may not be able to fully optimize your picking and packing. Review your current SLAs and work/drop pick waves to make sure the items you need are still getting picked on time, even during peak throughput times where orders might seem like they’re piling up.

Is your warehouse layout optimized for travel & item discovery? No matter how closely-managed your picking processes and SLAs are, it can all be for naught if your warehouse prevents your team from finding the items they need, when they need them. Review your warehouse layout and check for things such as:

As any of these methods apply to warehouses of nearly any industry, keeping a close eye on how you could implement them in your warehouse may help with your ongoing SLA/deadline troubles, and may improve the performance of your warehouse overall.

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