E-commerce has been steadily growing for the last few years, and with these increased demands, warehouse and distribution center management needs to ensure things are running as smoothly as possible. If you are wondering if your distribution center operations are running at peak efficiency, we have put together this list of best practices to guide you.
Use Automatic Data Collection Technology
If you automate your data collection method, you can boost the accuracy and productivity of your distribution center and lower some of your labor costs at the same time. This will help to eliminate human error from the tracking process. It will also help you make more informed decisions about your center.
Practice an Ongoing Cycle Count
Another great way to streamline your distribution center is by practicing an ongoing cycle count. This can save time because you will not need to cause disruptions with a full-scale inventory. With an ongoing cycle count, you will sample the different subsets of your inventory, which is an efficient way to gauge the accuracy of your inventory. Make sure you focus on the most high-demand products first since they are more critical to replenish.
Use Cross Docking
Cross docking is a shipping process that takes items from one form of transportation to another without storing them in between. The products simply get unloaded from one vehicle, then moved straight to the next one without being put into storage of any kind in between. It can help speed up shipping time, optimizing the flow of goods between distribution centers.
Offer Workplace Incentives
One great way to reduce your employee turnover rate is by offering your employees some workplace incentives. Your employees want to feel like their hard work is appreciated, and showing them that they are is a great way to boost your productivity. You can offer annual bonuses, host company parties, deploy an employee of the month program, and more. Take the time to put together a good employee appreciation program that incentivizes them to stay with you and work efficiently.
In addition to employee incentives in general, take the time to know who your employees are and that you appreciate them. In an industry like distribution management, many employees feel like they are just an unseen cog in the machine, but showing them that that is not true can do a lot for employee morale. Stop someone in the hallway to ask how their family is; thank someone when they have done a good job on something.
Make Training Employees a Priority
When your employees are all well trained can greatly speed up the productivity of your distribution center a lot. All of your employees should be trained in every part of the center that they will be working in, including training them on the machinery. Make sure your team is set up so that employees can approach their leads with ideas for how to help improve the productivity of your warehouse. By investing in an employee training program, you can improve job satisfaction and speed up productivity. You also can reduce your turnover rate, which will improve your operations and save you money.
Keep Products Accessible
When you design your distribution center, make sure you leave enough space in all of your aisles for a forklift to go down them without bumping into anything. You will need to find the balance between leaving enough space for the forklift and saving valuable space, which can be tricky at first.
You will also want to make sure that there is a ladder accessible on every aisle for employees to climb up and get products on higher shelves. You do not want employees to waste a bunch of time hunting down a ladder every time they need to grab a product.
Implement a Vendor Compliance Program
A vendor compliance program can help streamline the operations in your warehouse, improve transit times, reduce product handling, and boost customer satisfaction. A vendor compliance program can improve the relationship between you and your vendors, as well as customer satisfaction. A compliance program is a series of regulations that you establish with your vendors and suppliers to help improve performance and ensure your deliveries are on time.
Keep Spare Parts on Hand
Equipment failures are your worst nightmare. To help you keep everything moving, try to keep some spare parts on hand for when a piece of equipment fails so you do not have to suspend operations on something while you wait for the spare part needed to make a fix.
Integrate a Warehouse Management System
Having a good warehouse management system will enable your team to manage inventory, keep track of the expiration dates of products when inventory is getting low, find product locations, and more. A system that organizes everything by barcodes is usually a good choice, but there are many systems out there that you can try. A good warehouse management system can help increase accuracy when picking products for shipping, give you a real-time look at the current inventory in your warehouse, and reduce human error.
Optimize the Layout of Your Distribution Center
Try to design the layout of your distribution center to ensure the workflow is continuous from the moment you receive the order to it being loaded onto a truck for shipping. Organize products that are the most popular to be closest and less popular or seasonal items toward the back of the shelves. This can help streamline things a lot.
If you are moving into an existing building for your warehouse, this can make streamlining your processes more difficult since you are limited by your current building layout. If possible, it is a good idea to have a steel warehouse custom built for your distribution center. That allows you to completely organize your design so that you can streamline everything from the beginning.
Establish Dedicated Work Areas
When optimizing the layout of your warehouse, take the time to create dedicated work areas for everything. This will not only keep everything organized, but it will also make things easier for your employees. Keeping things organized for your employees can help improve operations and reduce employee turnover rates.
Streamline Your Picking Procedure
Take some time to determine what the most efficient procedure is for picking products. There might be some trial and error in streamlining your picking procedure, but make sure you spend time working on optimizing this process. It can completely improve customer satisfaction, too, since you will be able to get products out sooner.
You can also try a more hands-free tracking process using wearable technology to help speed up the picking process for your employees.
Conduct Regular Audits
Conducting regular audits of your distribution center can help you evaluate the performance of your team overall and find areas that could use some improvement. These are also helpful for you to verify your inventory quantities, ensure nothing has expired, and make sure that your team is following safety protocols.
Streamline the Returns Procedure
Having a good procedure set up for returns and exchanges can help increase customer satisfaction and give your company a good competitive advantage. Look for ways to streamline your returns procedure to make things easier for both your employees and customers alike. Set up a staging area for recently received returns, and have several employees trained on how to handle them so you are not left hanging if someone quits. Create an internal tracking process for returns too.
Use Shipping Notifications
If you incorporate electronic shipping notifications into your purchase orders and inventory management, which will allow you to plan things a little more accurately. It can also help improve customer relations since people enjoy being able to track their orders with ease.
Provide Adequate Lighting
Warehouses and distribution centers are notorious for not having sufficient lighting. If you provide more adequate lighting in your distribution center, you can improve operations and accuracy since employees will be able to see better. You can also help with safety by lighting up your distribution a little better.
Track Internal Product Movement
As part of your warehouse management system, track all movements of products and materials in your distribution center to ensure everything is moving at a good pace. Track everything from items being removed from shelves to packaging to staging for the next delivery truck. Any steps that you cannot track or record in some way should be removed from your process if possible; if it is not possible, look for a way to track it.