How to Improve Warehouse Efficiency: 5 Ideas

Modern warehouse interior

Even if you are following industry best practices for efficient warehouse operations, you still must continually assess its productivity and effectiveness. All too often, we see warehouses with less-than-efficient layouts, systems, and practices in place. An inefficient warehouse can drag your entire operation down and harm its profitability.  But how can you make your distribution center more efficient? Let’s explore ideas for improving warehouse efficiency.

1. Use the Right Storage Systems

Your warehouse equipment is one of your largest assets, but are you making the most of it? Are you using warehouse storage systems that suit your products?  An investment in the appropriate pallet racking systems for your products may involve an initial capital expense that will pay off in the long run if the result is reduced bottlenecks, fewer accidents and faster throughput.

Another way to maximize efficiency is to expand up rather than out. Make use of vertical space by installing taller storage racks, alongside the proper equipment to organize and pick products, to truly maximize your warehouse floor space.  Consider a mezzanine system to add additional storage, production, or office space.

2. Add Automation Where It Makes Sense

Your team is likely performing many repetitive tasks that, depending on the nature of your business, could be automated.  Here are some examples of how automation can make a warehouse more efficient:

  • There are many options for automated storage solutions such as those that can quickly sort and consolidate small items quickly, automatically pick small items from vertical or horizontal carousels, or load and unload pallets with a shuttle system.
  • Carousels and conveyor systems can move products from a storage area to the assembly area. 
  • Robotics Systems can handle repetitive tasks, saving money, time and productivity lost to injury.  Robots can open boxes, move materials through the warehouse, and handle numerous other repetitive tasks.
  • Automated Pick-to-Light Technology can help warehouse personnel pick more orders, with greater accuracy, in less time.  The light-based system guides employees through the warehouse to the items for each pick without worrying about lists and locations.

3. Invest in Software to Improve Warehouse Efficiency

One way to boost efficiency relatively quickly is by using warehouse management software (WMS).  This software looks at your products and warehouse processes and uncovers ways that the warehouse can run more efficiently.  WMS will recommend specific locations for SKUs, placing high volume items in the optimal location and items that are picked less frequently in their appropriate place.

A warehouse management system can optimize packing, picking, receiving, allocation, restocking, returns, shipping, and more. A WMS module provides automated pick lists sent directly to mobile devices, which helps to eliminate mistakes. Furthermore, barcode or radio frequency identification (RFID) systems help improve accuracy and reduce picking errors

4. Evaluate Warehouse Layout & Design

Is your warehouse designed for the business you have, or has the design just happened as your business has grown? If your current warehouse space doesn’t work for anymore, you may just need a reorganization rather than an expansion.  Our FasTrak Design service can help you get a more efficient, workable warehouse layout in just three business days. 

5. Cross-Train Employees

Training employees on more than one job function works toward improving warehouse efficiency in a number of ways. It can increase productivity when an employee is out sick because an existing employee can step into their job. During peak season, you can move employees to the areas where they are needed most, reducing the need for seasonal employees.

Cross training isn’t just good for the company, it’s good for the employee, too, making them more valuable by increasing their skills.  And, when you invest in an employee by giving them additional training, you are showing them you value them, which may increase their loyalty to the company and decrease turnover.

Tips for Management

As warehouse management, or business management in general, taking steps to implement efficiency best practices can appear, at first glance, overwhelming. Here are a few tips to help:

  • Offer an incentive program to better involve your employees in their training and general organization tasks around the warehouse.
  • Design a quality training process from the ground up with the help of experienced warehouse managers or outside contractors.
  • Research top-rated warehouse management systems and choose the one best suited to your needs.

Warehouse Systems and Software at Precision Warehouse Design

Alongside the countless tips we offer for warehouse efficiency improvement, Precision Warehouse Design proudly provides businesses of all sizes with complete warehouse solutions from pallet racking to conveyor systems to  software solutions, including warehouse management systems.

For efficient warehouse systems, layouts, and software designed to help make running your business easier, contact Precision Warehouse Design today. We help businesses like yours maximize warehouse efficiency every day.