Warehouse Optimisation—Important Components in any Warehouse

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Home > Articles > Warehouse Optimisation—Important Components in any Warehouse

 Warehouse Optimisation—Important Components in any Warehouse

Petros N Zenieris | General
May 23, 2012

Over the past 30 years, the role and meaning of the warehouse has changed significantly. Greater emphasis is now being placed on customer satisfaction, retention, and the need to modernise the warehousing operation.

MANY companies have started viewing their warehousing operations not as a direct expense but as a significant profit centre. With the right management, this will significantly contribute to the welfare of their business.

Innovative technologies have started improving warehouse management system applications. Some applications are voice technology, pick-to-light, automated storage and retrieval systems, and pick-and-go-order selection. There are more widely used applications like radio frequency identification, automated material handling equipment, and bar-coding.

When people consider optimising warehousing operations, a significant percentage of them have the tendency to make decisions towards upgrading of existing equipment and applications. They tend to overlook a number of essential components that will affect the operations of any warehouse, if appropriate and frequent attention is not accessible.

The writer has identified six major neglected components:

  • Training and procedures,
  • Rules and regulations,
  • Tools,
  • Housekeeping and safety,
  • Identification, and
  • Paper work.

1. Training and Procedures
It is relatively inexpensive yet it will have a significant impact and greater return on investment in your warehouse operation. To do so, the warehouse manager must insist on the proper implementation of procedure manual creation and frequent training. Warehouse operations that lack up-to-date manuals and training plans are likely to suffer from low productivity, potential safety issues, and lack of control.

The only way forward is to document all warehousing activities into easy-to-follow procedures and implement a compatible training programme that will match the department’s operational needs.

This is important for business development and progression of employees.

2. Rules and Regulations
Managers should communicate with their staff on how they should be doing their jobs. They must be prepared to exhibit to staff the correct way of completing jobs in the working environment. Never assume that staff can handle the assigned task. Managers must double-check to ensure that they can correctly deliver it.

Extra support has to be given to new staff, as they need time to familiarise themselves with the new environment and company policies. An easy way to enhance the understanding of rules and regulations is to create posters and place them clearly on visible locations within operating areas.

3. Tools
Managers must ensure that their employees have the right tools readily available to perform their tasks. This will definitely have a significant impact on business. According to the writer, not only are the right tools important but quality tools are just as essential.

Tools are recorded into three main sectors:

  • Warehouse tools (Forklifts, racks, dock levellers, and black boards),
  • Cleaning supplies (Brooms, dustpans, and dust bins), and
  • Safety items (Face masks, hand gloves, earplugs, and hard hats).

Proper maintenance schedule for all equipment is important for productivity and safety.

4. Housekeeping and Safety
Good housekeeping practices will result in improvements in safety, productivity, and morale. Implementing specific cleaning schedules will ensure a clean and safe working environment.

Floors must be kept clean—swept at least once a day, spills must be cleared quickly, and debris should be picked up immediately. Aisles, exits, and doorways must be kept clear at all times and clearly marked. Employees must be aware of all exits from buildings and stores in case of an emergency. Outlets, plugs, cords, circuit breakers, and light bulbs should always be in good working order.
Quarterly fumigation should be observed at all times and must be conducted by registered applicators. The goal of fumigation is to maintain a toxic concentration of gas to kill the target pest population. Upon completion, a certificate stating all types of chemicals used should be issued to the company and kept for safe-keeping. These certificates must be ready for inspection by authorities.

All stock keeping units must be placed on pallets or racks. Staff should never stack products directly on the warehouse floor—to avoid product damage from potential spillages or leaks from the roof.

Stacking and Storage
Products can be stacked in a warehouse with the use of cartons, crates, flat sheets, and coils. The shape of a stack depends on the storage space available. Stacks can be arranged in a column, square, pyramid, or triangular forms. The aim is to prevent cross contamination.  For example, detergents must be stored away from foodstuff and sweets. Electronic appliances must be stored away from cartons of hard soaps because of moisture issues.

First-In-First-Out (FIFO)
Proper application of the FIFO method will ensure optimum movement and accurate handling of all goods in any warehouse. It will safeguard businesses from ending up with expired products.

All damaged and rejected goods must be isolated and kept in a separate location within the warehouse area. Staff must ensure proper documentation of such goods and keep them separated from the rest. 

Medical Fitness Test for Store Handlers
A medical fitness certificate issued by a recognised hospital or clinic must be obtained for all warehouse staff. This will certify them as being fit to handle any food or pharmaceutical products in their stores.

5. Identification
The warehouse manager has to ensure clear identification of all stored products and locations in the warehouse. This will assist the order picking, as well as the loading and unloading of goods, and ensure accurate progression.

  • Use clearly readable labels on pallets or bulk stacks of cartons,
  • Mark floors to designate floor storage assigned areas,
  • Use signs to identify aisles,
  • Use clearly marked storage space to place all material handling equipment when not in use, and
  • All depot-inbound stock keeping units must have identification tags.

6. Paper Work
Create easy ways for required documents such as customer invoices, delivery notes, and orders to be stored electronically and manually. Maintain a proper filling system in each store to ensure accuracy. This will ensure continuity at all times.

In reality, the six components represent important but neglected components in any warehouse. Go ahead, give them a try, and talk to your people about what it is required and make all necessary changes to ensure an efficient and effective warehousing environment.

Petros N. Zenieris is a management consultant with over 24 years of experience in Southeast Asia and West Africa. He is the principle consultant and trainer at The Business Criterion.
Copyright © 2012 Singapore Institute of Management

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