Running a successful and profitable warehouse relies heavily on a key factor: efficiency.
An efficient warehouse is one that is organized, productive, and cost-effective. We’ll share 25 tips to help you achieve warehousing efficiency, from optimizing space to improving picking accuracy, productivity, and even employee satisfaction.
Plus, we’ll introduce you to our automated solutions at Modula and explain how they can further streamline your warehouse operations.
What is an Efficient Warehouse?
An efficient warehouse is one that operates at a productive, cost-effective level, often largely due to the utilization of:
- Automated storage and retrieval systems
- Warehouse management systems
- Order picking solutions
- Technologies such as IoT devices
25 Expert Tips for Optimal Warehousing Efficiency
Warehouse efficiency is the process of maximizing the use of space, time, and resources in a warehouse or distribution center to improve productivity, reduce costs, and enhance customer satisfaction.
Here are 25 tips you can leverage to increase efficiency within your warehouse.
1. Optimize Your Warehouse Space with VLM and HC Solutions
It’s not the size of your warehouse that matters the most — but how you leverage your space and resources.
Take advantage of your existing warehouse space by investing in automated solutions such as vertical lift modules and horizontal carousels.
These solutions optimize the space you have, whether vertical or horizontal. At Modula, we offer both vertical and horizontal solutions that can reduce warehouse space requirements by up to 90%.
Our vertical lift modules (VLMs) are fully automated vertical storage systems that use minimal floor space by taking advantage of high ceilings, while our horizontal carousel works best where ceiling height is limited.
2. Improve Picking Accuracy with Picking Solutions and Picking Aids
Lack of accuracy in warehouse operations can lead to unhappy consumers, damaged relationships, and lost revenue.
Guide your picking operators and tell them exactly what inventory to pull from each slot by leveraging order picking solutions, including put to light systems, and picking aids such as voice picking technology.
At Modula, our intuitive picking solutions boost warehousing efficiency and improve order picking accuracy.
3. Manage Inventory in Real Time with Warehouse Management Systems
If your warehouse holds a wide range of SKUs, monitoring stock in real time can help you ensure that you have the right products in the right quantities, at the right time.
Real-time stock monitoring allows you to track inventory levels and quickly identify when stock is running low, enabling you to replenish inventory before it runs out. This can help you avoid stockouts and reduce the risk of backorders.
Our Modula warehouse management system is one of the most intuitive and advanced solutions on the market. From receiving to shipping, it allows you to gain full visibility into your inventory.
4. Organize Inventory with Item Coding
Quickly access your inventory’s key information such as SKU number and product dimensions through item coding.
Label your inventory with RFID tags, barcodes and QR codes to improve inventory management and in turn, warehousing efficiency.
Combining Modula’s automated storage solutions with barcode readers is a great way to enhance warehouse efficiency.
Barcode readers are commonly used to identify items with complex part numbers or those that are difficult to distinguish.
By scanning barcodes, operators can improve the accuracy of their picking process and ensure that they select the correct products. They can also use the barcode reader to file or confirm orders, or to log in, streamlining operations and improving overall efficiency.
5. Reduce Warehouse Travel with Robots
One of the biggest challenges in warehouse operations is minimizing travel time. Traveling long distances to retrieve products can be time-consuming and decrease productivity.
Robots can help reduce warehouse travel by automatically picking and transporting inventory directly to your operators.
To further reduce warehouse travel:
- Identify fast-moving items and place them near the shipping area
- Design an efficient floor plan — think clear paths and designated areas for picking and storing items — to help robots quickly navigate your warehouse
6. Boost Employee Safety by Implementing Labels and Signs
Studies show that employees who feel safe in the workplace end up working more efficiently than those who feel unsafe.
Utilize product safety labels or hazard warning labels to notify your employees about potential hazards of warehouse equipment and tools — like an ongoing forklift operation, for example.
To promote warehouse safety using labels and signs:
- Use color-coded signs that can be recognized from long distances to warn operators of potential danger
- Install signs at eye-level to make them noticeable
- Add floor markings using color-coded tape — for example, mark your floors with yellow and black lines to act as safety hazard markings
7. Optimize Stock Replenishment Using Warehouse Drones
Warehouse drones, also known as unmanned aerial vehicles, can help replenish your stock and manage inventory.
Equipped with sensors and cameras, they can fly through warehouse aisles and scan barcodes or RFID tags to determine the inventory levels of each product.
Warehouse drones can also quickly and efficiently transport products from storage locations to picking areas, reducing the need for manual labor.
8. Optimize Your Warehouse Layout with Warehouse Slotting
Build an efficient warehouse organization strategy and boost warehousing efficiency with warehouse slotting.
Best practices for warehouse slotting include:
- Place fast-moving items near the shipping area
- Group inventory that are frequently picked together in a similar storage area
- Store bulky inventory away from small parts to ensure safety, among other benefits
9. Streamline Warehouse Training Using AR and VR
Ensure your warehouse employees know exactly how your equipment works and are able to effectively navigate your warehouse’s layout with end-to-end warehouse training.
Integrate AR and VR technologies into your warehouse training program to onboard employees regarding different warehouse processes.
For example, you can utilize a 360° VR headset to introduce your operators to picking locations before they even step foot into your facility.
10. Maintain Warehouse Equipment with Predictive Maintenance
Boost your equipment’s lifespan and reduce costly downtime with predictive maintenance — a maintenance strategy that leverages data and analytics to predict when a piece of equipment will require maintenance.
Implementing a predictive or preventative maintenance program can help you reduce larger, more expensive problems with your equipment that snowballed as a result of being ignored.
At Modula, we developed Modula Cloud, a comprehensive platform that enables remote management, support, and analytics for all automated storage and retrieval systems, no matter where they are located.
Directly connected to your Warehouse Management System (WMS), Modula Cloud collects and evaluates all statistical data. The algorithms create a mathematical model that helps identify signs of wear over time and schedule maintenance services accordingly.
11. Increase Picking Efficiency by Classifying Inventory
Boost picking efficiency by properly classifying inventory, using ABC analysis.
ABC analysis is an inventory management method that categorizes inventory based on value and picking frequency. “A” items are stored closer to shipping areas because they have the highest value, while “C” items are stored at the back, because they have the lowest value.
12. Speed Up Order Fulfillment with Cross Docking
Cross docking is a warehouse strategy that involves unloading inventory from incoming shipments and immediately dispatching it onto outbound shipments, without the need for long-term storage in your warehouse.
13. Utilize Automated Solutions to Boost Productivity
From automatically delivering inventory to your warehouse operator to eliminating the need to travel through narrow aisles, investing in automated solutions is key to improving productivity.
Automated solutions that boost productivity include:
- Vertical lift modules
- Horizontal carousels
- Autonomous guided vehicles and autonomous mobile robots
- Order picking solutions
14. Streamline Warehouse Operations by Hiring a Warehousing Expert
Partner with a warehousing expert to streamline your warehouse operations, from optimizing your current warehouse layout to identifying cumbersome, labor-intensive tasks that can be automated.
A warehousing expert is responsible for evaluating warehouse operations, inventory management and logistics to cut warehouse costs and boost warehousing efficiency.
15. Boost Employee Engagement with Gamification
Improve productivity and boost employee engagement with warehouse gamification.
Warehouse gamification is a strategy that involves incorporating game-like mechanics into your warehouse operations.
For example, you can monitor the employee who has the most accurate picks for the month. As a reward, you might hand out a performance bonus.
16. Cut Costs by Maximizing Your Warehouse Capacity
Why move into a bigger warehouse when you can take advantage of your current warehouse space?
To expand your warehouse’s storage space:
- Set up pallet racks to utilize vertical space
- Install mezzanines to add multiple levels in your warehouse
- Implement mobile racking systems — a storage solution where racks are built on an adjustable base and guided by rails on the floor
- Adopt high density storage solutions such as vertical lift modules and horizontal carousels — these solutions are highly effective in maximizing warehouse capacity and optimizing storage space
17. Sync Warehouse Inventory with Omnichannel eCommerce
Omnichannel eCommerce is a sales approach that integrates multiple sales channels to provide a seamless and unified shopping experience for customers.
This means that your customers can browse and shop brick-and-mortar stores, e-shops, mobile apps and more, while each channel offers consistent pricing, promotions and product details.
If inventory in your warehouse doesn’t match what appears on your e-store, shipment delays and unsatisfied customers can be the result. To cope with this eCommerce challenge, you can utilize an eCommerce integration tool with your WMS.
18. Forecast Inventory with a Warehouse Management System
Utilize warehouse management systems to track and forecast inventory based on demand. Forecasting can help you prevent stockouts and overstocks, so you can avoid costly stock issues.
For example, our Modula Management System (WMS) offers a user-friendly and intuitive interface, making it easy to maintain inventory control and visibility.
By using this WMS software that comes with every Modula product, you can have a more efficient warehouse operation, reduce the likelihood of errors and improve order accuracy.
This software also provides detailed reports and analysis of inventory levels, which can help you anticipate future demands and adjust inventory levels accordingly.
19. Speed Up Order Fulfillment by Identifying the Right Order Picking Method
From single order picking to wave order picking, the order picking method that you select for your warehouse operations is key to your warehouse operations.
Why? Because quick and accurate order fulfillment is closely tied to customer satisfaction.
The order picking method you select depends on how big your warehouse is, how much inventory you have, and how many orders you get each day, among other factors.
For example, for holidays such as summer and Black Friday sales, consider utilizing batch picking to speed up the order fulfillment process.
20. Cut Costs by Building a Sustainable Warehouse
Creating a sustainable warehouse allows you to cut costs when it comes to your energy usage and your utility bills.
To achieve a sustainable warehouse:
- Utilize renewable energy resources
- Leverage automated material handling systems to minimize energy
- Use more efficient packaging such as recycled and biodegradable materials
- Recycle all possible materials
21. Streamline the Receiving Process by Collaborating with Suppliers
Know exactly when shipments will arrive and how much you will receive by effectively collaborating and planning with suppliers.
Proper planning can help you streamline the receiving process, from scheduling the right number of employees to making room ahead of time for large shipments.
22. Retain Your Employees by Providing Employee Incentives
A recent study found that companies who provide competitive benefits increase employee retention by 14%.
Compensate your best employees for their efforts by providing employee incentives such as paid time off and performance bonuses. This will help you retain your workforce, optimizing costs in the process.
23. Reduce Shipping Errors with Tracking Identification Technologies
Shipping errors can result in unhappy customers and revenue loss.
Utilize GPS, QR codes, and RFID tags to track orders, from the moment a package leaves your warehouse until it reaches your customer’s doorstep.
24. Streamline Warehouse Operations with the Latest Technologies
Internet of Things (IoT) technologies such as sensors and wearable devices can help you monitor and manage inventory, track warehouse equipment and streamline warehouse operations.
25. Optimize the Packing Process with Automated Solutions
Invest in packaging automation technology such as automated carton erectors, void fill machines and automated labeling systems to decrease packing times, minimize human error, and improve overall efficiency within the packing process.
5 Key Factors to Consider for Improving Warehousing Efficiency
From ensuring productivity to managing employee safety and satisfaction, here are five key areas that contribute to an efficient warehouse.
A 2021 global outlook report found that U.S. businesses will need a combined 330 million square feet of warehouse space (about the size of the Chicago O’Hare airport) to keep up with the uptick in eCommerce.
However, moving your operation to a bigger warehouse could be extremely costly. The answer may not be to move to a bigger space but to optimize the space you have, with automated storage solutions.
Hint: think vertical.
Warehouse accuracy is storing, receiving and distributing inventory with precision. Lack of accuracy can lead to production and shipping delays, misplaced items, heightened idle time, and ultimately, lost revenue.
If your physical inventory doesn’t match your inventory records, for example, backorders may increase, productivity may be lost and your customer service reputation might be in trouble.
Automated solutions such as order picking solutions can help you drastically increase picking accuracy.
A 2018 Gallup poll found that a highly engaged workforce increases profits by 21%. Employee productivity plays a key role in the profitability of your overall operation.
In addition to employee incentives and gamification, utilizing warehouse automation (think ASRS, warehouse management systems and picking solutions) can help you increase employee engagement and in turn, productivity across your warehouse.
4. Employee Satisfaction & Safety
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were 4.8 recorded injuries for every 100 full-time workers in warehousing and storage in 2019.
Workplace accidents, including falls, being struck by an object, or getting caught in equipment, can be extremely serious, making employee safety paramount to your operation.
In addition to physical safety, employee satisfaction also plays a vital role in running an efficient warehouse.
Job dissatisfaction produces low morale and causes loss of motivation, lack of interest, frustration, poor productivity, absent employees, and increased turnover rates.
By streamlining tedious aspects of employee operations, you can eliminate some of the monotonous tasks that lack real value, and help reduce confusion and stress levels. All of this contributes to higher job satisfaction rates and a more positive workplace association.
Even if your warehouse is organized and your employees are satisfied and productive, running an efficient warehouse ultimately means you’re turning a profit, right?
Labor, equipment, storage, utilities, rent, and other costs all factor into the overall success of your warehouse. Running a cost-effective operation means finding ways to reduce costs without sacrificing quality.
Cost-saving tactics could include utilizing your available ceiling height (instead of moving into a bigger facility) and leveraging renewable energy resources.
Warehousing Efficiency Solutions: A Look at Our Modula Case Studies
From improving performance, efficiency, and safety to reducing space demands and inventory errors, our warehouse automation solutions provide measurable results for businesses across industries.
1. Dassault Falcon Jet
Dassault Falcon Jet, Dassault Aviation’s subsidiary, which has a distribution center for large aircraft parts and headquarters in Teterboro, NJ, was experiencing delivery issues.
Aircraft parts were taking too long to deliver and since they were using a traditional shelving warehouse system, picking errors were common. They needed automated solutions to cut back on the time it took to find the right parts.
Dassault installed three 25-foot-tall Vertical Lift Modules. Thanks to these modules, Dassault’s employees can now find an aircraft part in less than a minute, compared to the five minutes it took when they were relying on manual pickers.
2. Innomed Inc.
Innomed Inc., a Georgia-based company that manufactures orthopedic surgical instruments, was facing storage issues that affected their lead time. They needed a permanent storage location for their expanding inventory of surgical instruments but they were unable to move to a bigger warehouse.
To help accommodate their growing inventory of surgical instruments, the company installed four Modula Vertical Lift Modules in their warehouse. The modules streamlined their process accelerated their lead times, providing significant time savings in inventory stocking and order fulfillment.
3. GF Machining Solutions
GF Machining Solutions’ North American logistics hub offers overnight delivery to their North American customers. Due to growing demand, they needed to expand secure storage capabilities, while boosting speed and accuracy.
Modula’s vertical lift modules helped GF Machining boost their floor capacity and efficiency. With more space, they were able to create new work zones, improving the overall flow on the floor.
They also utilized unique productivity features such as Dual Delivery Trays, which are equipped with a laser pointer and guided light bar. These solutions dramatically improved picking speed and accuracy.
Wrapping Up on Warehousing Efficiency
In an efficient warehouse, space is optimized, employees are happy and productive, inventory is managed accurately and costs are cut without sacrificing quality. The secret to achieving all of these things? Automated storage solutions.
At Modula, we help you reimagine your storage with our next-generation solutions to improve accuracy, boost productivity and ensure your warehouse runs efficiently.