Warehouse News

Other Voices: Taking inventory of more than just goods

A thorough and ongoing analysis of processes can identify plenty of opportunities to boost warehouse efficiency.

Editor’s note: The following column is by Marcus Warner, director of strategic accounts for NITCO, a New England-based provider of forklifts, materials handling equipment and comprehensive warehouse solutions. It is part of Modern’s Other Voices column, a series featuring ideas, opinions and insights from end-users, analysts, systems integrators and OEMs. Click here to learn about submitting a column for consideration.

————-

Is your warehouse operating at maximum efficiency? That’s always the goal, of course. But in reality, there’s almost always room for improvement. There is much to be learned, and productivity to be gained, from slowing things down for a moment so you can step back and take a closer look at the big picture. Here are common-sense tips for rethinking your warehouse productivity. It all starts with taking inventory — in a different way.

Taking Inventory: A Warehouse Efficiency Exercise

Keeping close track of inventory is key in the world of warehouses and distribution centers. But how often do we stop and take inventory of our processes? The potential to discover efficiencies and cost savings makes it well worth the effort, whether you’ve undergone recent changes or have been doing things the same way for decades.

Are you handling different types of products? A greater volume? Have you moved to a new space (bigger or smaller)? If so, make a note of such factors. But at a more basic level, the process of discovering how to do things more efficiently involves a more thorough analysis of:

● How your product comes in
● How it’s handled within your warehouse
● How it goes out
● The height of your shelves
● The width of your aisles
● The weight of your typical and heaviest loads, etc.

Among the key factors that impact warehouse efficiency:

Touches
How many touches occur from the time materials enter your warehouse until they exit? Reducing that number is one obvious way to increase efficiency. For example, there are a range of belt and roller conveyor systems that can be customized to your space to help facilitate a smoother, speedier workflow while reducing handling costs for repetitive tasks.

Aisles sizes
Do narrow aisles create a need for specialized equipment? Do unnecessarily wide aisles create an opportunity to gain storage space by reorganizing? In the first instance, there are many options available for versatile narrow aisle forklifts capable of operating in tight quarters. In the second, there are a range of products designed to help you make more efficient use of your existing space. These include automatic storage and retrieval systems, high-density storage solutions and a wide range of innovative pallet storage racks.

Vertical space
Suppose your warehouse has 20- or 30-foot-high ceilings, but most of the action happens at ground level. Such a scenario introduces numerous possibilities for better utilizing your vertical space. Erecting higher shelving and making sure you have lift equipment with the necessary reach and power to handle the job is one way to accomplish this. You can also add durable, versatile mezzanines to add a second or third level inside your facility.

Equipment

Taking inventory of your existing equipment will help you determine whether the machines you’re using are powerful enough to handle your height and weight requirements safely and without unnecessary wear and tear. But such analysis could also reveal that you are devoting too much power to certain applications, for example using a bigger machine when a smaller one could save energy while handling the same workload.

Personnel
Warehouse logistics also means making sure your workers don’t suffer unnecessary wear and tear, that they have the tools they need to do the job safely and efficiently, and that they aren’t placed in situations that end up needlessly slowing down the process. For example, lifting a substantial weight may be easy for a rugged warehouse worker. But if that same weight must be lifted repeatedly throughout the shift, or if the worker has to reach too high or too low to move it, a bit of mechanical assistance may boost operational efficiency. For this, there are a range of ergonomic solutions that promote productivity and reduce injuries in the workplace, including lift tables, tilters and pallet positioners, hand trucks, scissor lifts, overhead cranes, and more.

Automation
Automating certain functions in the picking, packing and shipping process is another way to boost efficiency, potentially reducing the number of touches. For example, robotic automatic guided vehicles (AGVs) and vision guided vehicles (VGVs) can haul large loads using programmable navigation that includes the ability to automatically slow down or stop if they “see” someone or something in the way and then resume when the obstacle is gone.

You may also find it helpful to explore new technologies designed to better manage your work flow — for example, cutting-edge engineered systems and logistics management software that can provide real-time stock management and inventory control while enabling greater synchronization throughout your warehouse.

The process of conducting such an internal efficiency audit is almost guaranteed to yield insights that will help you work smarter and more productively.


Article Topics
AGVs   Automation   Ergonomics   Forklifts   Lift Trucks   Mezzanines   Rack   Safety   Storage   All topics


Comments
You must be logged in to post a comment. Login.

 
Latest Warehouse News
The Difference between a Traditional Warehouse and an OmniChannel Warehouse
The days of an ecommerce-dedicated warehouse are over, and warehouse managers must understand the necessity of new systems and processes to create omnichannel warehouses.

7 Reasons for Using Autonomous Robots in Your Warehouse
Here are the main reasons why your company needs to start integrating autonomous robots into its supply chain in 2018.

The Keys to a Future-Ready Automated Warehouse
Dramatic changes to the warehouse are just beginning. Data-driven, flexible and robotic automation solutions help improve performance today while retaining the agility to adapt to tomorrow’s changes.

9 Attributes Redefining the Warehouse of the Future
The continued growth of e-commerce, last mile delivery, and warehousing as a whole are driving significant demand for industrial properties and spurring innovation in how the assets are built and utilized.


 

24|7 Pro Team

The 24|7 Team is your direct pipeline to solutions for your business challenges. It's your opportunity to have supply chain and logistics experts look at your specific challenges and needs, and give you free, no-obligation advice, solutions, and information.

The 24|7 Team will simplify the task of creating a database of likely partners, building your knowledge base, and preparing your Request for Proposal list.

1
  Choose a topic for your RFP

Transportation RFP/RFI

The Transportation RFP is your direct pipeline to solutions for your transportation challenges. It's your opportunity to have logistics experts look at your specific transportation challenges and needs, and give you free, no-obligation advice, solutions, and information specific to your request.

Choosing the perfect software or system can be an indomitable challenge. Using this transportation/TMS RFP will simplify the task of creating a database of likely partners, building your knowledge base, and preparing your Request for Proposal list.

Warehouse/DC Management RFP/RFI

The Warehouse Management Systems (WMS) RFP is your direct pipeline to solutions for your WMS challenges. It's your opportunity to have logistics experts look at your specific WMS challenges and needs, and give you free, no-obligation advice, solutions, and information specific to your request.

Choosing the perfect WMS solution can be an indomitable challenge. Using this WMS RFP will simplify the task of creating a database of likely partners, building your knowledge base, and preparing your WMS Request for Proposal list.

Supply Chain RFP/RFI

The Supply Chain RFP is your opportunity to have logistics experts look at your specific challenges and needs, and receive free, no-obligation advice, solutions, and information. It simplifies finding a pool of likely partners, building your knowledge base, and preparing your Request for Proposal list. The companies in the Logistics Planner have agreed to respond to your request for in-depth information and follow-up, and your request is totally confidential.

Software/Technology RFP/RFI

The Software/Technology is your direct pipeline to solutions for your logistics information technology challenges. It's your opportunity to have logistics experts look at your specific technology challenges and needs, and give you free, no-obligation advice, solutions, and information specific to your request. Whether it's WMS, TMS, Mobile or Cloud, our pros can help.

The companies listed below have agreed to respond to your request for in-depth information and follow-up. Your request is totally confidential.

Executive Education RFI

The Logistics and Supply Chain Education RFI can help you identify the schools, coursework, continuing education, distance learning and certification opportunities available from leading logistics educational institutions.

Upgrade and improve your logistics and supply chain skillsets. Whatever route you choose—advanced degree, executive education, certification or distance learning—the time and money you invest in your education today can pay off in continued career success tomorrow. Contact leading universities and professional institutions for the information you need to prepare for the future.

Third Party Logistics RFP/RFI

This 3PL Request for Proposal (RFP)/Request for Information (RFI) can help you find the 3PL and 4PL providers that can meet your specific 3PL service challenges and needs. The 3PL companies below will provide free, no-obligation third-party logistics advice, solutions, and information.

Ask your 3PL questions, you'll get answers. Simply complete the information, and detail your 3PL challenges. Then, check off the third-party logistics companies that you want to review your request.

1. Choose an RFI topic.
2. Enter your contact information and challenge.
3. Select companies and optional categories.
4. Submit.


2

Your Information



Your Challenge, Problem or Request *

3

Select Transportation Companies

  • Select All

  • 3Gtms
  • BluJay Solutions
  • CSX Trans. Intermodal
  • Kuebix
  • Landstar
  • Legacy Supply Chain Svs.
  • One Network
  • Pitt Ohio
  • Purolator
  • Quintiq
  • SEKO Logistics
  • SMC3


Select Relevent Categories

  • Air Freight
  • Intermodal
  • Motor Freight
  • Ocean Freight
  • Rail Freight
  • TMS

Select Warehouse/DC Management Companies

  • Select All

  • 3PL Central
  • Apex Supply Chain Tech.
  • Honeywell Intelligrated
  • Kuebix
  • Legacy Supply Chain Svs.
  • Swisslog
  • Westfalia Technologies
  • Zebra Technologies


Select Relevent Categories

  • Auto ID & Data Capture
  • Automation
  • Conveyors & Sortation
  • Lift Trucks
  • Packaging & Labeling
  • Pallets & Containers
  • Shelving & Racking
  • WMS

Select Supply Chain Companies

  • Select All

  • 3Gtms
  • 3PL Central
  • Amber Road
  • Apex Supply Chain Tech.
  • APICS
  • BluJay Solutions
  • CSX Trans. Intermodal
  • Frontier Business
  • Kuebix
  • Landstar
  • Legacy Supply Chain Svs.
  • Logility
  • One Network
  • Purolator
  • Quintiq
  • SMC3
  • Synchrono
  • TAKE Supply Chain
  • Westfalia Technologies
  • Zebra Technologies


Select Relevent Categories

  • Global Trade
  • Inventory Management
  • Risk Management
  • Sustainability

Select Software/Technology Companies

  • Select All

  • 3GTMS
  • 3PL Central
  • Apex Supply Chain Tech.
  • BluJay Solutions
  • Honeywell Intelligrated
  • Frontier Business
  • Kuebix
  • Logility
  • One Network
  • Quintiq
  • SMC3
  • Swisslog Logistics
  • Synchrono
  • TAKE Supply Chain
  • Zebra Technologies


Select Relevent Categories

  • ERP
  • Sales & Operations
  • Sourcing/Procurement
  • Optimization
  • Transportation Mgmt
  • Warehouse Mgmt

Select Executive Education Choices

  • Select All

  • Graduate Courses
  • Online/Distance
  • Executive Education
  • Certifications
  • Undergraduate
  • Seminars
  • Associations
  • Conferences
  • Tradeshows


Select Third Party Logistics Companies

  • Select All

  • 3PL Central
  • Landstar
  • Legacy Supply Chain Svs.
  • Purolator
  • SEKO Logistics
  • Westfalia Technologies


4
 

24|7 Company Profiles