Managing a warehouse isn’t a piece of cake. It takes meticulous planning, execution, and monitoring to stay on the right track. However, notwithstanding good intentions, there are some common warehouse management mistakes that we, as managers, commit without ever realizing that we are.

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This blog covers five top warehouse management mistakes and how to avoid them.

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    1. Inefficient Inventory Management

    Shortage of inventory, excess inventory, and storing obsolete inventory are three common warehouse scenarios. While many warehouses may believe in following JIT (just-in-time) replenishment, some are over-preparing themselves for hikes in demand. Both situations can cause you to incur additional operational costs and customer dissatisfaction.

    Storing obsolete stock just eats up precious space for no good reason.

    Another ailment is not performing periodic cycle counts and physical inventory. Even if you are assured 99% accuracy since using a WMS, the one percent may still catch up with you in the long run.

    How to Avoid This Mistake:

    A WMS can help you avoid many headaches associated with managing and updating your inventory. In the most basic form, the WMS should allow you to track all the cargo in and out of the warehouse, including its location and status, and associate each cargo with a unique identifier (package ID) within the WMS.

    The WMS should allow you to track the exact storage location for each piece by creating a link between the Bay ID (location) and the package ID.

    It is highly recommended that package IDs are attached to cargo in the form of barcode labels and that barcode labels on each location also identify Bay IDs. As each piece is received, stored, and shipped its status and the inventory are automatically updated.

    This capability will allow you to track all your inventory almost in real time, perform cycle and physical counts very efficiently, reflect the status (Putting Away, Storage, Picking, etc.) for each piece of cargo, and have a clear view of obsolete cargo at the click of a mouse.

    The right WMS will help you maintain the optimum inventory at any given time and determine the optimum stock level, especially during seasonal demand hikes.

    Finally, a physical inventory and cycle counts should be taken every three weeks to two months, depending on the warehouse size and throughput. Also, don’t just stop correcting the inaccuracy (if found) — go deeper to investigate its origin so it can be rooted out.

    The State of Small Business Report by Wasp Barcode says that

    46% of SMBs either don’t track inventory or use a manual method.

     

    2. Wasteful Space Utilization

    Your warehouse’s space needs will likely change as your customer base becomes more diverse (some customers send you full pallets, others half pallets, and other packages) and/or your business grows.

    If you are facing a shortage of space without any of these developments, you have been making the mistake of sticking to a static storage layout or have failed to understand the statistical distribution of cargo dimensions (the average dimensions that you process), which is now resulting in underutilization of storage space, for example, half-pallets being stored in full-pallet bays.

    Warehouse Management Mistakes - Unwise Space Utilization.

    How to Avoid This Mistake:

    Review the layout of your warehouse periodically. Also, review the warehouse stock composition, as improving the warehouse layout requires reallocating according to the product mix. Do this at least annually.

    Pay special attention to racking to utilize the entire height, length, and width of the space. For this, it is highly recommended that you run a report of all the cargo you have processed within at least one year and group it by dimension.

    This will give you an idea of the required rack configuration and storage distribution setup. Odds are that you are facing poor warehouse space optimization rather than a shortage of space.

    If measuring the cargo dimensions is causing or will cause additional overhead, you can automate this process by implementing a dimensioning system for pallets and packages.

    Warehouse space often makes 15% to 20% of the cost per order.

     

    Warehouse Efficiency Ebook

    3. Ignoring Technology as It Passes You By

    Are you one of those warehouses still managing cargo and inventory with pen and paper? If so, you are committing the same common warehouse management mistakes most small- and mid-sized warehouses make.

    Thinking that a warehouse of your size doesn’t need the latest warehouse technology is certainly a mistake. Failing to adopt technology and collect and analyze data causes unnecessary inefficiencies and makes the business less competitive as it cannot detect trends and adjust and respond promptly to market changes and customer shifts.

    How to Avoid This Mistake:

    Basic tools such as a warehouse management system, wearable computers, business intelligence dashboards, diverters & conveyors, barcode scanners, mobile printers, and dimensioning systems can help you immensely digitize your warehouse, achieve efficiency, and automate warehouse operations.

    Even if we consider the ROI on these simple tools, it will far exceed the costs that you would incur in the absence of technology and having to rely on manual labor.

    Remember, you don’t need to go from zero to 100, but you owe it to the business, yourself, and your team to start modernizing and automating your warehouse operations.

    Warehouse conveyor system.

    4. Taking Safety for Granted

    Are there frequent slips and trips in your warehouse? Is your pedestrian traffic safe from forklifts? Are your forklift drivers or clerks working at heights trained to do their jobs? If not, you are certainly making a huge mistake. The truth is that most warehouses take the safety and health of their workers for granted, and they pay for it in terms of increased contingent costs and litigation.

    How to Avoid This Mistake:

    Regular risk assessment, followed by preemptive and corrective measures, is the definitive answer. It is extremely important to follow health and safety guidelines for warehouse workers, thus not only preventing accidents but also avoiding the costs and litigation arising thereby.

    According to the U.S. Department of Labor,

    Slips, trips, and falls account for up to 65% of lost workdays each year.

     

    5. Forgetting to Measure

    Many warehouses fail to establish Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) and measure their operations. As a result, they are bound to get stuck in a cycle of committing errors, being unable to differentiate good from bad, and never knowing where and how to improve—you need to know where you are before moving forward.

    Warehouse employee ran over by forklift.

    Only 30% of American warehouses are efficient yet.

     

    Are you aware of how much it costs you to perform standard warehousing operations such as receiving, put-away, pick-and-pack, and shipping? Do you know the average execution time for each of these operations? Who are the most productive and unproductive employees? Or what is the rate of return? If you have no clue yet, tracking these and other important metrics is highly recommended.

    How to Avoid This Mistake:

    You must measure your warehouse processes and operations. In today’s technological environment, tracking these parameters is no longer a thing of the future.

    The simplest WMS comes with a database. This stores all the data. It can be connected to a business intelligence dashboard. It can also be connected to a predictive analytics engine. This allows for real-time provision of all these metrics.

    A predictive analytics engine can even help you predict the future through various statistical models built into the system—all you need to do is select the view or model you desire.

    Here is a list of top KPIs you must track continuously to ensure your warehouse is doing well.

    Avoiding these common warehouse management mistakes can lead to better warehouse efficiency and productivity and, in the long run, better customer satisfaction. Remember, a stitch in time does save nine.

    If you wish to correct the mistakes mentioned above and increase warehouse efficiency and productivity, use our solutions finder tool.

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    As always, if there is anything else that you would like to know about this topic, or if you need some tips for improving your warehouse operations, do not hesitate to comment or contact us.

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