Peak season can be a challenging period for warehouse managers as it brings increased volumes, tight SLAs, high customer expectations, and scarcity of reliable labor. These factors pose a huge threat to third-party logistics companies that do not have a streamlined way of handling the increased workload. However, by optimizing your warehouse management processes, you can strategically surpass the challenges the peak season presents and achieve long-term success.
If you’re looking to maximize your warehouse efficiency, there are three critical success factors to consider:
- Inventory Control – Accurate inventory records that are visible to customers at all times.
- Order fulfillment efficiency – Maximizing order throughput while minimizing error rates to ensure business profitability.
- Accuracy – Reducing error rates to avoid costly mistakes that impact profits and customer satisfaction.
Your goal should be to strategize ways to create costs and time-saving efficiencies. Here are seven proven ways to run a highly efficient warehouse operation during your busiest periods:
- Optimize your Warehouse Layout
It’s easy to overlook the importance of warehouse layout, but every inch of warehouse space is critical, particularly for third-party logistics companies managing limited warehouse space. An optimized warehouse layout that defines a logical walk sequence for picking and put-aways can greatly reduce travel time, boosting productivity and overall efficiency.
The following warehouse areas require special attention:
- Receiving: Quickly identifying inventory locations is important in keeping the receiving area clear for additional shipments and to get the inventory into circulation as soon as possible. Using solutions like VeraCore, you can “auto-locate” the first available location closest to the receiving area to reduce travel time and eliminate confusion.
- Forward Picking/Quick Pick: Store high-demand fast-moving items in an easily accessible area to minimize the time taken to pick and fill orders, lowering the overall cost and time per order. Also, optimize space in the forward picking area by adjusting product placement based on current trends, seasonality, and velocity.
- Returns: Proper management of returns requires setting up two distinct locations – a transition location and an evaluation location.
- Optimize your Order Batching process using Intelligent Automation
Intelligent automation (business rules) is a powerful tool that can automate manual warehouse processes, making it easier to handle high order volumes. Once you’ve established business rules in your warehouse, you can begin to optimize processes. For instance, grouping orders with similar picking and packing instructions can make it easier for your team to handle orders efficiently. They’ll complete the picking and packing process more quickly and achieve a faster turnaround time.
Examples of Intelligent Automation rules include:
- Specifying batch release times, such as a particular time of day or day of the week. For example, batching orders that coincide with courier pickup times ensures that you won’t miss the shipment’s SLA.
- Release batches with specific packing instructions to specific packing stations, resulting in faster processing times. Batch picking allows your team to complete one specific task with quick repeatable steps, making the entire process faster.
- Use Barcode Technology
Implementing barcode technology in your warehouse can be a game-changer in managing high volumes. With barcodes, you can automate warehouse transactions easily, replacing manual data entry with a quick scan of the barcode. Barcode technology coupled with the right warehouse management system can provide greater quality control and reduce costs while increasing overall warehouse efficiency. By scanning barcodes in real-time, managers can oversee activities with more speed and accuracy.
Barcode technology can be used in the following warehouse transactions:
- Material handling
- Shipping label generation
- Optimize the Picking Process
Picking is a critical element of the order fulfillment process, and it can be a challenge to maintain accuracy while keeping up with high volumes. Cluster picking (batch picking) is one of the most efficient methods to reduce travel time and increase picking rates during peak periods, allowing you to batch pick several orders in a single pass through the warehouse and eliminate the need to retrace steps.
- Optimize your Packing Process
Packing can provide your operation with a high level of quality control. Implementing a formal QC process with barcode scanning can eliminate the need for manual checks, saving time, and reducing costly errors. A clearly defined return process can eliminate confusion and the need for verbal instructions on returns. If you’re managing multiple packing stations, consider grouping orders with similar packing instructions to Specific packing stations to improve efficiency.
- Implement Effective Inventory Management Processes
Inventory control is critical to optimize picking and packing processes. Poorly managed inventory can outstrip the operation’s ability to fulfill orders, causing backorders and negatively impacting customer relationships, ultimately affecting profits. Implementing an inventory management system will ensure that you can keep up with demand while maintaining inventory accuracy.
Some benefits of efficient inventory management include:
- Real-time inventory accuracy, tracking, and visibility for customers
- Improved e-commerce storefront inventory tracking
- Immediate inventory update across all platforms
- Accurate inventory levels ensure that customers’ orders continue to flow during peak periods without costly interruptions.
- Streamline your Returns Processes
During peak periods, returns volumes can spike, and it’s important to have efficient processes in place to handle them. Without a formalized process in place, valuable labor hours are wasted, negatively affecting profitability. A clearly defined returns process that indicates the handling processes of different product categories can help streamline your operations
The following are examples of item categorization processes:
- Identifying goods good for restock
- Evaluation requirements
- Damaged goods
By using transition locations, inventory movement can be controlled efficiently. Additionally, training your team on the returns process will reduce confusion and ensure efficient handling of returns.