You’ve Done It – Phew!
You’ve designed and implemented a terrific inventory management process in your warehouse. You’ve classified inventory based on size and pick frequency. You’ve placed each class of inventory to the most effective storage type (manual or automated). And you’ve slotted that inventory within its designated storage system to maximize both operator ergonomics and picking throughput.
You. Are. A. Warehousing. Champion.
But, like all champions, you’re never satisfied. You’re still looking for ways to get even better. Steps to take to maintain and prevent your facility inventory management efficiencies from backsliding, or even falling apart. So here are a few warehouse organization best practices to help you maintain—and even enhance—your hard-won inventory management accomplishments.
Warehouse Organization Tips
Warehouse organization is key to maintaining facility flow, managing inventory and boosting throughput. (That’s why there are a number of facility label and signage vendors in the market.) Apply labels or placards to shelf faces and rack beams and columns to indicate what stock keeping unit (SKU) is stored in a specific position. Hang signage from the ceiling and post it on walls to direct workers to different zones of your warehouse.
If your associates speak languages other than English, be sure signage and labels feature graphics and/or their native tongue. To avoid a major annual project to update everything, continuously replace labels and signage as inventory and storage locations change. Time is money, the quicker workers can find what they need the better.
Whether your warehouse is less than 10,000 square feet or over 1-million square feet, it can be tough to navigate—particularly for new associates or seasonal employees who aren’t familiar with the warehouse layout.
While overhead signage can help, so can maps—with handy “you are here” notations—posted at key points within the facility (such as at entrances, intersections, corners, each zone or area boundary, etc.). For the newest employees, a pocket-sized map showing an overview of the entire facility might also be helpful as they navigate the aisles during their first couple of weeks on the job.
Clean up like your mother’s inspecting.
Okay. Maybe not clean enough to eat off the floor, but at the very least keep things neat and tidy. After all, you’ve just spent all that time establishing a warehouse layout based on “a place for everything and everything in its place.”
Messy, cluttered and unorganized racks, shelving or workstations slow down throughput and reduce productivity. Further, they can cause inventory damage and costly product waste. Invest in bins and dividers for small parts and components, and label them. Mark the location of tools with their outline as an indication of where they should be placed when not in use. Making it easy to keep all workspaces clean and clutter-free—and insisting that employees do so—will go a long way toward refining and enhancing your warehouse organization.
Make way for moving vehicles.
Whether pallet loads are moved via pallet jacks or forklift—or if wheeled carts are pushed or pulled manually or in a train behind a manned or unmanned tugger—your original warehouse layout should have incorporated wide enough aisle spacing for easy navigation. If you discover, however, that the aisles are too narrow and your existing fleet of vehicles cannot pass through them without close calls (or actual impacts), it’s time to consider a re-design.
When considering a warehouse re-design, however, don’t make the aisles so wide that vertical space is wasted. A professional warehouse design engineer can help you ensure that vehicles can safely travel within the aisles while maximizing your space for inventory storage and other value-added activities.
Don’t block stored product.
While this gets back to having properly sized storage aisles, it also ties into your receiving, putaway and replenishment processes. Simply put, if there is no open storage space in a designated area for product, don’t send it to that area. Otherwise an operator is likely to drop the pallet or case right in the aisle, blocking access to other products and forcing associates to climb on, stretch around or strain to reach items needed for order fulfillment.
Create an inventory management plan that calls for the oldest inventory to be brought forward and full pallets of the newest inventory to be stored. Require forklift operators and workers traveling throughout the warehouse to report aisle obstructions and unavailable storage bays as they are discovered so putaway issues can be addressed immediately. This will prevent inventory from being blocked and further ensure efficient facility flow.