As a warehouse manager, you have many important tasks. However, a few tasks stand out. Motivate your staff is obviously important, and keeping quality at a good level. A third task is to work out an effectiveness in the warehouse. An important factor for efficiency is to standardize the tempo of all the warehouse tasks and continuously monitor performance.
Something that is just as important if not more important is to search and hunt time thieves.
It is very rare that you can adapt the in and outflow to your warehouse needs. Usually we have to adapt the warehouse after the flows, it is important to remember. You need to be agile and flexible, not build rigid monuments as you say in lean language. When it comes to warehouse layout, you have to look outside the box and not limit yourself of unnecessary principles. Many try to keep together part groups and part numbers etc. Usually such sorting criteria is unnecessary and severely limits the opportunities for increased efficiency, in particular if you are going to ABC categorize in order to achieve a higher picking efficiency.
When planning a manual warehouse layout and in what way the goods may be picked when you walk or drive a forklift you have to constantly think about how to minimize driving time or run time. Time is among the most expensive we have in a warehouse. It is important to minimize the number of hours in the warehouse in relation to turnover. Most of the time is spent transporting goods in the warehouse, because of that it is important to think about how to put the goods in a manual warehouse. Floating picking locations with ABC categorization is essential if you are going to achieve high efficiency. If you have many small picking orders with few order lines, you have to pick in batch as many customers as possible in each pick round. If you going to pick in batch it is a big advantage to categorize goods by size and weight in separate departments so you can get as many orders as possible in one pick round and you don´t need to interrupt the pick round to unload large goods. In a competent WMS you can choose to pick stock orders with many lines over several departments to consolidate the orders and separate the departments on afternoon when you pick daily orders with fewer lines to minimize the driving time on forklifts.
In modern WMS you can also choose how the order picking should be prioritized, should priority be given on departure times or should priority be given to minimizing the driving round when picking. If you don´t need to take into account different departure times you should obviously choose the latter as far as is possible. It also combine the two options, early on the day you prioritize after driving time and closer to departure the system prioritize after departure time.
It is also important that staff do not jump too much between tasks such as picking, goods receiving and putaway, warehouse work is not a production but there is still setup time between tasks that are serious time thieves. It takes time for warehouse workers to switch from one task to another this should not be underestimated. It does not mean that you should be rigid, but only that you should think before you move resources to provide continuity in the departments. Besides, job rotation is a prerequisite to avoid time thieves. Instead of having staff waiting on new orders to pick or new trucks to unload you move resources between departments in this way you can free up hours for goods receiving or other important tasks tasks. The warehouse staff should have multi competence and have “floating” roles in this way warehouse management can allocate resources depending on the needs.
Packing of goods is often a major time thief. My advice is to standardize and minimize the number of packaging types. Is there too much sizes and shapes of boxes etc. everything take much more time. The staff try and try until they find a packaging type that fits exactly, it takes far too long. Use a limited number of standard packaging. Make sure everything is easily accessible. Use lean just like in a production unit and give your staff different responsibilities to continuously ensure that the packaging material like tape and packing filler never run out.
A prerequisite for reducing time thieves is of course, that you have a good and competent WMS that is flexible in terms of working in the warehouse. If you do not have that, it is impossible to improve the efficiency. A basic rule is, the smaller WMS, the less flexibility, this is due to large established WMS has more customers that forces the development of new features. The costs of development is extremely expensive and financed by customers’ ever-changing needs.
Good luck in the eternal hunt for time thieves