The putaway process is often ignored by warehouse managers when optimizing warehouse operations but is a critical step to increasing warehouse efficiency. The initial placement of goods has a direct impact on all subsequent warehouse processes, especially the picking process. Storing goods in a non-optimal location increases travel time and time to pick and pack goods. Failing to store cargo in the optimal location also adds risk to the security/integrity of the cargo and/or the safety of the employees.

Warehouse managers suggest that inventory control (53%), picking (47%), putaway & replenishment (45%) are the most inefficient warehouse processes.


In this article, we will review some of the foremost best practices and technologies that warehouse managers can implement to optimize the putaway process and increase warehouse efficiency.

Click Here: Optimize Your Putaway Processes With This Advanced and Affordable WMS

Putaway Process Objective

First, let’s review the main objective of the putaway process.

The prime objective of the putaway process is to move goods from the dock to the most optimal warehouse storage location.

At the heart of the process is assuring that:

  • Cargo is stored fast and efficiently
  • Warehouse travel distance is reduced to a minimum
  • Security of goods and the safety of warehouse employees is ensured
  • Warehouse space utilization is maximized
  • Cargo is easy to find and track within the warehouse
  • During the picking process, we store goods in a location that enables quick and easy retrieval.

Failing to implement an efficient process properly will have a direct impact on the productivity of warehouse operations.

    Get Warehouse
    Efficiency Strategies.

    Stay up to date with our latest content twice a month.

    Best Practices to Optimize the Putaway Process

    Collect Data & Introduce Real-Time Analytics

    Data is key to improving warehouse operations and implementing an efficient putaway process.

    With the objective of finding the most optimal storage location, data on cargo size, weight, height, receiving and shipping frequency, cargo type (e.g. Hazmat, perishable, high value, etc.), order/sales volume, and storage availability must be consistently and accurately collected and analyzed.

    Peter Drucker quote

    Therefore, the warehouse management system (WMS) must comprise two key elements: adequate/flexible data collection capabilities and ongoing data analysis.

    Once the appropriate WMS is in place, the next step is to ensure we collect data accurately and efficiently by automating collection as much as possible. This, in turn, will allow us to eliminate entry errors and reduce overhead.

    For example, if we are collecting cargo weight data, an integrated digital weighing scale does the job, while a parcel or pallet dimensioning system collects data on dimensions. Both solutions automate these tasks and eliminate data entry errors.

    Monitor Storage Capacity & Space Availability

    Another important element in process optimization and increased warehouse efficiency is avoiding unnecessary traveling time to locations lacking space or capacity to store the cargo by monitoring storage capacity and availability.

    To monitor capacity and space availability, warehouses can use barcode scanners and bin locations to track used/unused space across warehouse zones. This solution is currently available across most warehouse management systems (WMS). However, this system is prone to human error, as it relies on the warehouse clerk to scan the bin location and cargo every time he/she performs a putaway or pick task.

    Another approach is to use RFIDs to automatically record tasks without any human intervention. Even though we are still fine-tuning and testing this solution, RFIDs, combined with more advanced solutions, such as sensors, will become part of a technology ecosystem that delivers real-time tracking of capacity and space within the warehouse.

    Warehouse Efficiency Ebook

    Reduce Traveling Time

    Reducing traveling time is another important factor when optimizing the putaway process and warehouse operations in general. The goal is to reduce the time goods travel from the receiving area to the storage location.

    Travel distance in a warehouse is 60% to 70% of labor cost.


    To accomplish this, warehouse managers can conduct an ABC analysis to better understand high-volume/frequency cargo. If necessary, adjust the warehouse layout to move high volume/frequency cargo closer to shipping areas in order to reduce travel time.

    Note: For this to be effective, it is important to monitor order volume and frequency actively and continuously and adapt as major shifts occur.

    Defining routes for the shortest path to the storage location is another way to reduce traveling time. When doing so, warehouse managers should consider factors such as distance, warehouse traffic congestion, and potential conflicts with other processes that involve traveling.

    Use Direct Putaway When Possible

    Another best practice is to use direct putaway when possible.

    When using this method, the cargo is directly moved from its receiving area to its final location without going through a staging phase. By eliminating the need for designated staging locations, this approach not only speeds up the process but also reduces handling and space requirements in the warehouse.

    When implementing this approach, it is important to remember that the WMS must be able to assign final locations from the advance shipment notice (ASN) or the point of delivery at the receiving dock. Without this capability, it is almost impossible to run an effective direct putaway process.

    Use Fixed & Dynamic Locations

    It’s also possible to leverage a proper mix of fixed and dynamic locations if conditions allow.

    A fixed location is a pre-determined storage space, warehouse zone, aisle, or bin assigned by specific criteria. For example, a specific product category, customer, final destination, etc., can be linked to a fixed location. locations help increase the efficiency of the process because warehouse clerks can memorize a cargo’s specific location assignment.

    On the other hand, dynamic locations provide more flexibility by allowing clerks to put anything in the first available space they find on their way. When using dynamic locations, a reliable inventory management system to track goods and locations is paramount.

    Dynamic locations can also store high-volume seasonal items temporarily closer to picking locations, and they can replace them with different items when volumes shift.

    Keep the Warehouse Clean & Organized

    Last but not least, a clean and organized warehouse/distribution center can make all the difference in running an efficient process.

    A cluttered and poorly organized facility will directly impact the speed of putting away goods. Clerks take more time to find available locations, move cargo around to open space, and maneuver around obstacles to reach the desired location. Most importantly, poor warehouse organization increases safety hazards for employees and the risk of compromising the integrity of the cargo.

    Without a clean and organized warehouse, streamlining your warehouse processes or using the latest warehouse technology won’t matter.

    As we have learned, various ways exist to optimize the putaway process and increase warehouse efficiency. Optimizing warehouse operations through simple best practices such as keeping a clean and organized warehouse, using technology to track space utilization, or performing an ABC analysis to re-structure the warehouse layout is a matter of attention to detail, careful planning, and mindful execution.

    To further increase your warehouse efficiency, check out the best practices for optimizing storage utilization.

    For now, If you are ready to find the solution to optimize your warehouse, go to our Solutions Finder tool.

    Advanced and Affordable WMS

    If you want more warehouse content or are curious about “Warehouse Digitalization,” you can follow us on LinkedInYouTubeX, or Facebook. You can also message us through our contact page if you have other inquiries. We’ll be happy to help.

    to Top

    Schedule Demo