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Consider the warehousing industry as a whole – always advancing, always changing, and yet there’s always a new set of challenges (and headaches) waiting around the corner as the years go by.

It’s all part of the fun, right? Managing a warehouse means keeping up on trends, understanding the challenges ahead of you, and being agile enough to react to these challenges in a way that benefits your warehouse and keeps your workers effective and successful. There’s no one-size-fits-all approach to these issues, but by better understanding the potential challenges you can face and the effect they may have on your warehouse, you can better prevent and work through them. Here’s the top 5 challenges and issues we’re expecting warehouses to encounter in the New Year, and what you can do about them:

Increased customer expectations:

You don’t need to be an e-commerce expert to know that customers need a lot from their purchases and retailers these days: improved shipping times, competitive prices, specific orders and bundles, and the like. You need a warehouse that’s agile enough to meet these needs and flexible enough to keep up with changing commerce and industry trends if you expect to maintain your customer base, and that means not fearing change when it arrives. Focus on what you’re good at, keep the inventory your customers expect you to have, and always keep an eye on what the rest of the industry is doing so you know how you can serve your customers better than the next guy.

Redundant processes:

Let’s all be honest with ourselves; a lot of warehouse work can be pretty easily streamlined if only someone would sit down and take a look at all the processes. 2018, particularly in the early days when people are still recovering from their holiday shopping hangovers, is your chance to streamline these processes. Review all the steps your employees take to get work done and identify any bottlenecks – is anyone travelling too far from one end of the warehouse to the other? Are there too many steps involved in getting a product tagged for shipment and sent to outbound, potentially hampering customer delivery times (and, as a result, their satisfaction)? Take a look at any of your major processes and trim whatever fat you can.

Ineffectively used storage:

One of the biggest struggles with warehouse shelving these days is the wide variety of products being stored, and the variety of requirements it brings with them. A good idea to help streamline your storage issues and ensure all of your space is being used to the best of your ability is to review your most popular inventory and make note of where it’s being kept. Can you use your pallet racks more effectively, or at least free up some space on them? Is your wire shelving being used to store the items it needs to, or is the inventory on that just kind of languishing? Review your storage options and see what can be used better, and a lot of your inventory problems will start to fade along with it.

Unoptimized picking:

Of course, all the refined storage in the world isn’t going to help if your picking processes are still a huge bottleneck. Manual picking still has its place in the world of warehousing without a doubt, but with the increase in customer orders (and the heightened expectations that come with it) you may need to cut some steps out. Set a common route for pickers that can take them through the areas of the warehouse they need to get the items from and then right back to the shipping/receiving area to reduce the amount of steps involved and make sure the items get out faster than before.

Unbalanced business growth:

While this last problem isn’t one that can be solved with more shelves or a better shipping process, it’s still important to your entire operation. As the economy shifts and changes throughout the new year, you might be fielding more business, and with the increase in business you might find yourself tempted to hire a lot of new workers and/or bring on more expenses in the hopes your warehouse can keep up. This might not be the best immediate solution, and trying to temper the outgrowth of your business can help a lot in the long run. Keep an eye on expenses, try to keep everything at a good pace with your influx of customers, and avoid biting off more than you can chew – this is a great way to assure you’ll still be thriving and successful in 2019.

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