Efficiency is paramount to the success of any warehouse operation, particularly for small and mid-sized facilities facing the challenge of streamlining their processes. After extensive conversations with warehouse managers and an in-depth examination of various warehouse workflows, one recurring theme stands out: the crucial need for standardized processes and focused expertise to drive operational excellence.

To address this, we’ve decided to write about the standard processes that should exist in a warehouse. These are receiving, put-away, storage, pick & packing, and shipping.

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We aim to break down each process, providing a comprehensive blueprint of the necessary tasks while leveraging cutting-edge technologies and best practices designed to enhance warehouse efficiency, minimize errors, and boost safety measures. Follow us as we go through these core processes, shedding light on transforming your warehouse into a model of efficiency and reliability.

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    Warehouse Receiving Objective

    When discussing running an efficient warehouse operation, the receiving process is imperative. It’s important to remember that the purpose is to receive the right product in the right quantities, in the right condition, weight, and dimensions, all at the right time.

    Properly receiving goods will directly impact all subsequent warehouse processes. Let’s look into this.

    Pre-receiving

    For the warehouse receiving process to run efficiently, you must establish and enforce receiving requirements for suppliers, shippers, and/or carriers. The objective is for them to present the cargo in a way that is quick and easy to process.

    When working with suppliers, if possible, have the warehouse manager coordinate packaging requirements such as:

    • Label position
    • Label Information
    • Palletized or loose cargo
    • Number of packages per pallet
    • Items per carton
    • Acceptable package size & weight

    Shippers or customers who don’t have control over packaging are required to provide clear, detailed information and notify the warehouse of new incoming shipments. Often, freight forwarders receive cargo that doesn’t clearly state who the consignee or final recipient is.

    The carriers often fail to organize cargo according to the order of the delivery route, resulting in cargo having to be unloaded to reach the goods being delivered at a location. Another problem is that drivers do not have all the documentation when they arrive at the receiving area.

    To minimize these issues, inform all carriers that proper documentation must be in hand upon arrival and cargo must be organized in relation to the delivery route.

    Let them know your business is not responsible for any delays or potential penalties that result from failing to comply with these recommendations.

    Keep track of suppliers, shippers, and carriers that create the most problems.

    Finally, try to receive cargo as palletized whenever possible. Not only will this help you speed up the receiving process, but it’ll also reduce cargo damage and help speed up subsequent warehouse processes.

    Labor and Booking

    Another important aspect of improving the warehouse receiving process is allocating the proper man-hours. Failing to properly account for the volume and type of cargo coming through the gates results in under or over-allocating human resources.

    Considering that labor is among the highest warehouse operational costs, matching workload demand with workforce supply is critical.

    “As the typical warehouse’s largest operating expense, labor costs can eat up anywhere from 50 to 70 percent of the average company’s warehousing budget.”

    LABOR Management Strategies in the Warehouse (2014)

    To avoid under or over-allocating resources (labor or equipment) and/or a collapsing receiving process, warehouse managers must define the times and dates on which cargo is received. This should be the warehouse manager’s decision, not the carrier’s.

    By knowing what cargo comes in and when warehouse managers can match workload demand with workforce supply.

    To accomplish this in an organized and effective way, warehouse managers can use booking or scheduling software where the carrier can pre-book the delivery, and the warehouse manager can review and process the bookings.

    Because this option might be impractical in some cases (for example, parcel carriers like FedEx & UPS), managers can set up “on-demand receiving teams” and allocate specific docks to process carriers that will not comply with this requirement or drivers that miss their appointments.

    Warehouse Efficiency Ebook

    Unloading

    Generally, the objective during the unloading process is to unload cargo safely and efficiently.

    This process includes checking seals, recording temperature data (in the case of perishable goods), and validating the booking reference. Once this is completed, assign a bay and start the unloading process.

    For the unloading process to be efficient, we must ensure that the labor hours are properly allocated and the right equipment for the job is available.

    When unloading palletized cargo, keep in mind not only speed but safety.

    If a forklift is used in this process, receiving personnel must ensure the truck is properly docked and emergency brakes are on so that the trailer can handle the weight and container integrity is not compromised.

    Taking advantage of this can be beneficial here. For example, the use of power pallet trucks is recommended to optimize the safety check and speed up the unloading process.

    When loose cargo is being unloaded from a container, warehouse managers must avoid this being done by hand. Doing so is not only inefficient but also exposes personnel to the risk of injury from excessive bending and stretching.

    Warehouse managers should consider using conveyors to unload loose cargo. While regular conveyors will help reduce inefficiencies and increase personnel safety, telescopic boom conveyors will dramatically reduce safety hazards and processing time.

    Using conveyors will also allow receiving personnel to start the sorting process within the container.

    Verification

    The final step in the receiving process is to conduct a standard verification process that includes checking the quantity received, description of goods, product code, and condition of cargo – whether damaged or not.

    In other cases, a more advanced verification might be necessary, involving checking the cargo’s weight, dimensions, temperature, batch/lot number, and serial code.

    IMPORTANT: Recording and reporting any discrepancies between what is expected and what is received is a critical part of the verification process.

    One of the most time-consuming and labor-intensive tasks is counting and verifying damaged cargo. The three common approaches to execute these tasks are:

    • Individual item count
    • Count of pallets
    • And following Good Faith Receiving (more predominant among retailers)

    For companies that must count one item at a time, using warehouse technology such as barcode scanners or RFIDs integrated with the Warehouse Management System (WMS) is essential to speed up counting and reduce errors.

    Another approach to speeding up the process is to conduct random checks and keep records of all missing and/or damaged cargo and its supplier, shipper, and/or carrier. Once enough data has been collected, receiving clerks will focus on suppliers, shippers, and carriers with the most recurrent problems. The warehouse manager should also use this data to inform these companies of the problem.

    For companies needing to prove to their customers the state where the cargo was received, digital cameras installed on conveyors or freight dimensioning systems and integrated with the WMS can dramatically increase the speed of the image-capturing process. Image(s) can be shared through the customer portal and/or mobile applications.

    On the other hand, for warehouses required to verify weight and dimensions, weighing scales integrated with parcel/pallet dimensioning systems and the warehouse management system are an excellent option for capturing all this information quickly and without errors.

    Warehouse operations must start with an organized receiving process to run efficiently. While receiving, they must ensure they fulfill at least the standard tasks (pre-receiving, labor and booking, unloading, verification) and incorporate some of the best practices and warehouse technology described in this article.

    Remember, the lack of process-oriented operations is one of the biggest problems affecting warehouse efficiency and safety today.

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

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