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8 Ways to Build a ‘Smarter’ Warehouse Operation

Warehouse operations is an important and integral part of your business strategy. How you set up your warehouse directly affects the success of your fulfillment operations, which in turn, dictates how quickly and accurately you ship out orders, and ultimately impacts customer satisfaction. Keeping your customers happy should be the goal of every retailer, and optimizing your warehouse makes a huge difference.

With shoppers expected to spend more this holiday season, are you ready to handle spikes in order volume, customer requests and returns? Every year, retailers lose a considerable amount of money because of mis-ships, out-of-stocks, poor inventory control and human error, all which are largely caused by inefficient practices.

Whether you’re new to running a warehouse or simply looking to optimize your facility, these best practices will transform your operations from a mediocre workflow to a stellar fulfillment machine.

1. Organize Bin Locations and Efficient Picking Paths

According to UPS, 55% of warehouse hours is spent on order picking, and more than half of that time is spent on traveling within the site. More efficient processes can reduce the cost of such travel time. In fact, a 20% improvement in order picking could yield about $20,186 a year in savings for a warehouse of 5 employees.

To improve picking efficiency, create a warehouse floor plan with logical sections, aisles and bin locations, and set up the most efficient picking path. Stick to a naming convention for your bin location labels, and make sure they are adequately marked. Paint arrows on the floor to indicate the desired pick path. Another good practice is to create bin maps and hang them around the facility.

2. Super-Size Your Receiving Area and Keep Shipping and Receiving Stations Separate

Receiving is one of the most critical functions in the warehouse. Most inventory errors start in receiving, so it’s important to get it right from the beginning. While it’s tempting to cram as many racks of inventory as possible in your warehouse, your staff will need adequate space to do their tasks efficiently, from breaking down pallets to counting items.

Processes can also get confusing when shipping and receiving spaces are combined, especially if you share one computer terminal. Whether it’s a completely separate dock or simply two areas divided by a physical barrier, delineating these areas will help your employees process orders faster and eliminates confusion.

3. Designate Zones for Specific Inventory

Place your best sellers in close, easy to reach locations. Peak season products and on sale items should also be arranged accordingly, so that orders can roll out faster. Similarly, you can also assign an area for dead inventory. Instead of keeping dead stock with living inventory, it’s better to set aside space for items to be liquidated.

4. Place the Packing and Storage Areas Near Your Shipping Station

To optimize space and efficiency, your packing location should be adjacent to your shipping station. Similarly, establish a separate storage area for regularly used items, such as carton boxes, packing filler or packing tape. These items should be easily accessible from the shipping station.

5. Don’t Neglect Warehouse Safety

With people, products and equipment constantly moving, accidents are prone to happen in the warehouse. For this reason, aisles and walkways should always be kept clean, free of spills and debris. Ensure that the area around the loading bay is unobstructed.

Similarly, make sure all areas of your warehouse is well lit. Poor visibility and insufficient lighting not only makes it harder for your staff to sort and pick products, but it can also lead to accidents. To ensure peak efficiency, conduct regular visual inspections of your warehouse.

6. Don’t Skimp Out on Shelving and Storage

Poor shelving can result in accidents that could not only damage your products, but may also hurt your employees. These mishaps can be avoided by purchasing the right shelving for your site. Shelving and storage solutions come in many shapes and sizes, with options such as fixed or mobile, bulk racks and pallet racks, etc. It’s important to assess the type and quality that best suit your warehouse, and invest in ones that have longer lifespans.

7. Use Barcode Scanners to Optimize the Receiving Process

Manually receiving products drastically increases the chance for human error. It’s easy to mistake one product from another, or miscount stock quantities when cross-referencing product to invoice. In most cases, you’ll need to hire extra staff to double-check the shipment.

Using barcode scanners not only improves fulfillment and inventory handling speed, but it also minimizes costly errors, so you can handle higher volumes accurately without the need for extra manual labor. Simply scan product barcodes as you unload the shipment.

8. Invest in an Integrated Inventory Management System

Warehouse optimization involves working smarter, not harder. Intelligent automation will both streamline your workflow and scale your business. An inventory and multi-warehouse management system like Jazva provides real-time inventory control, so you don’t have to worry about overstocking or understocking. Sales reports and intelligent projections help you reorder the right amount of stock based on seasonality, item performance and other factors.

Our approach to warehouse optimization is to minimize changes to the way you do business. We believe that fast-growing online retailers can operate efficiently without need for expensive equipment like picking robots or conveyer belt systems. Efficiency does not equate to luxury.

Simply use a barcode scanner or Jazva’s mobile app to pick, pack and ship for fast to fulfill faster and eliminate errors. As an integrated shipping solution, Jazva also offers real-time label printing through thermal printers, allowing you to print shipping labels and packing slips from any location. Jazva also automatically selects the best carrier, mail class and box for each of your parcels by calculating the lowest rates in real time.

Similarly, Jazva offers smart location management solutions that let you customize bin locations based on priority. This lets you set up and label aisles, shelves and bins based on the most efficient pick path.

Ready to transform your warehouse operations?

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Albert Ong

Albert Ong

Albert Ong is the marketing manager at Jazva, an all-in-one ecommerce platform for multi-channel sellers. When not leading content strategy, Albert spends his time listening to audiobooks, writing science fiction, and binge-watching Netflix.