How well did you feel your team handled the “pandemic pandemonium” in 2020? More than any other year we can remember, there was a yawning gap between the “winners and losers” across different industries, bases on a standard measure of revenue. But among the biggest “winners” on the demand side were many messy backend operations that were not prepared for the 2020 surge and struggled to keep up with the pace of shipments, returns and more.
Today we’re going to share a short list of 9 tips that could help make a difference in areas where many businesses struggled last year. We’ve divided them up into three groups based on the level of investment (of time and/or money) required. Some are quick and easy, and some might be for your 2022 budget.
The Quick and Easy
1. Clean Up Your Mess - This might not seem like “pro” warehouse consulting advice, but we can not overestimate the difference maker that having a clean and well-organized warehouse can be. Even if you don’t commit additional resources to do it, distributing a checklist of basic cleaning tasks to the floor staff can get it done pretty easily and painlessly once it becomes routine. Excess dirt, dust and scrap boxes and papers can be a safety hazard, damage product and increase steps to avoid garbage. It’s also a morale issue. On a slightly more important scale, make sure your aisles are completely clear to support unimpeded vehicle traffic (carts or lifts). NOTHING should sit in the aisles, everything needs to have a place.
2. Optimize Your SKU Locations – You may or may not already be doing this, but if you experienced unusual volumes and spikes in orders for specific products over the last year, it is probably something you would benefit from immediately. SKUs where the volume has been higher than normal need to get prioritized both in terms of their location (more accessible, closer to packing, etc.) and in size (i.e. double up the bin size). And if you have a lot of single item orders for a particular SKU, then the next option is recommended for you too.
3. Implement Cross-Docking – Cross-docking is an excellent way to maximize your efficiency on single-item orders, especially where you have them backordered and customers are waiting. It basically works by skipping the Putaway Process during Receiving of the item and instead relabeling them for shipment as they come off the truck and get routed right back out the door of your shipping dock. See a quick demo from Kevin in the video.
Kevin Ledversis demonstrates a simple technique of keeping your paperwork aligned when implementing a cross-docking process on your docks.
Small Investments – Quick ROI
4. Cycle Counting – If your facility used to be a smooth-running, almost sleepy operation without the wild fluctuations other businesses see during peak then you might have been only doing physical inventory once or twice a year. Now that those days are gone, implementing regular cycle counts at least quarterly, and even monthly or weekly, will consume additional man hours now, but pay off in the long run with more accurate inventory and the labor cost reduced over time once it becomes a regular practice.
5. Master Receiving – As any regular reader of our blog will have noticed, we have a lot to say about the Receiving process. Traditional Receiving docks suffer from TWO major problems – huge hidden costs from the extra footsteps taken by workers walking back and forth to a stationary printer for labels, and mistakes in Putaway when pallets left alone on the dock get mislabeled or putaway without any labels at all.
“Mobile Printing” allows your Receiving team to print on demand on the Receiving dock, right at the pallet. It eliminates nearly all errors and all unnecessary footsteps. The best part? The small investment usually pays for itself within six months.
6. Deploy an MDM Solution – How much time is spent by your IT department visiting facilities, finding devices and identifying them properly in order to update the software on them? How much time is spent updating permissions for each user? Getting a Mobile Device Management solution would allow your IT support staff to manage ALL your mobile devices in any facility anywhere from their desk. It saves them not just time, but potential travel costs as well as unneeded exposure from coming into contact with devices used by every employee.
Big Investments – Long-term Payoff
7. Migrate to Android – you have probably heard this from your hardware Reseller already (and if you have not, let us know and we can introduce you to a new one!), but if you are still using Windows OS Devices, you no longer have ANY support for them. We are aware of a number of businesses have been milking the end-of-life scenario by living off of others used devices, but this is a band-aid approach that is not be sustainable, especially if you are looking to solve for last year’s spike and the future. Other than your Windows 10 rugged tablets, it’s time to start planning your move to Android devices if you expect to benefit from other pieces of the puzzle like software and compatibility.
8. Adopt a Warehouse Management System – Again, like the Android recommendation above, there are still too many ambitious DCs out there that still haven’t deployed a Warehouse Management System (WMS). If you have not been using one yet, the initial deployment will seem like an overly challenging, expensive form of overkill, but you can deploy them one module at a time. Start with core processes and incorporate others as you go.9. Re-organize Your Floor Plan – After a year where the typical volumes and flows of the business were altered, perhaps permanently, it’s always good to take a step away from the floor and see if your floor plan is still working for you. As a basic rule, your workflow should dictate your floor plan. If you had process areas with big changes in volume or space allocations last year, then your workflow – and floor plan – will likely no longer be optimal. Thing to consider go well beyond just the efficiency aspect:
- Efficiency, productivity, minimizing touches and steps
- Employee Safety
- Ventilation, lighting and environmental controls.
- Maximizing space usage – horizontally and vertically.
All of these items are connected to each other. Obviously if you decide to make use of your high ceilings to install a mezzanine or redesign all of your reserve shelving to be serviced with single-operator picking cranes instead of a two-person team on a lift, the investment gets much higher. But if the situation dictates an investment like this and the ROI makes sense, then it’s work considering.
What Can You Do Today?
Which, if any, of the above do you foresee as part of your plans for 2021? What other improvements have you already made or are planning for 2021? Share your own experiences below or contact us with your questions on how to get started on any of these today.