Discover the importance of efficient warehouse storage and how it can maximize operational efficiency while keeping costs in check. Learn valuable tips in this article on how to streamline your operations.
Why Efficient Warehouse Storage Space Utilisation Matters
If you’re a shipper of consumer packaged goods, you’ll understand the need to ensure customer satisfaction through timely and accurate deliveries – all while keeping your own operating costs in check and maximising operational efficiency.
And if you work as a logistics service provider (LSP), you’ll appreciate the need to connect with vetted shippers who are ready to maximise the use of your assets, while maintaining the cost effectiveness of your own warehouse operations.
The good news is that as stakeholders in the consumer goods supply chain, you can achieve these aims by taking steps to improve warehouse efficiency and optimise inventory management. To this end, efficient warehouse storage space utilisation becomes key.
In this article, we’ll be looking at strategies and techniques you can adopt to increase storage space at your facilities and improve the efficiency of your warehouses across the board.
Tips for Improving Warehouse Efficiency
Improving warehouse efficiency and optimising warehouse operations requires warehouse managers to take a multilateral approach. This involves aspects of warehouse layout, inventory management, space utilisation and operational efficiency. You can use the following recommendations as a guide:
Take a Lean Approach to Inventory Management
The basic premise of lean inventory management is “only what you need and nothing more.” From a material handling standpoint, this means that warehouse managers should reduce unnecessary movements (to increase operational efficiency), minimise waiting times (to increase customer satisfaction) and avoid excess inventory (which can hamper operational efficiency and put undue strain on warehouse storage space).
In more practical terms, lean inventory management may involve dedicating less warehouse space to safety stocks or having suppliers deliver smaller quantities of fast moving materials more frequently to reduce the actual volume of storage space required.
Warehouse management stakeholders should also standardise operating and decision making procedures. If you work with a third-party, you should set up clear communication channels with your warehouse service provider.
However, to achieve any of these aims, effective data sharing and communication between stakeholders is crucial. In practice, this means warehouse management teams getting a clean set of master data – including product and supplier portfolios – and using appropriate warehouse management system technology to achieve real or near real-time visibility of stock and transport flows.
Optimise Your Warehouse Layout
You should maximise the space in your warehouse, exploiting the warehouse design to bring all available storage space to its maximum capacity. There are a number of ways to avoid wasted space and utilise all available space to increase the total warehouse storage capacity. You could, for example:
Rearrange Products in Individual Containers When Possible
This approach enables you to maximise your available space by storing items according to size. Doing this allows for more ergonomic pallet racking – though requires a racking system that improves your warehouse's efficiency by making it easier to find and retrieve products.
Consider Relocating Frequently Used Items
Arranging your storage space so that frequently used items are closer to handlers and equipment reduces movement on the warehouse floor and thereby increases your warehouse's efficiency.
Depending on the warehouse design, you can implement cross-docking, pallet flow racking and other space utilisation and ergonomically efficient techniques.
Minimise Aisle Widths to Maximise Space for Storage Racks
With only a finite amount of floor space available, warehouse storage teams need to maximise space utilisation by every means obtainable. Reducing aisle widths can free up available space for storage racks and increase warehouse efficiency by reducing the carrying cost of inventory.
Take Advantage of Your Warehouse's Vertical Space
The vertical height of the building can be a major contributor to total warehouse storage capacity. Adding taller storage units and the correct equipment to retrieve products and store material can increase your volume of storage space and the cost effectiveness of your storage solutions. Pallet racking can be of great benefit in optimising your use of the cubic volume and vertical space of the warehouse.
Make Use of Untapped Space in Your Warehouse
It’s possible to increase the volume of warehouse space available through some simple measures. For example, you can clean up your floor to gain valuable space that would otherwise be given over to clutter. Identifying and removing potentially unnecessary items in the warehouse can also free up unanticipated storage capacity.
In whatever available space in your warehouse you have, you can run racking lengthwise to increase storage capacity.
Organise Your Workstations
With well organised workstations, warehouse staff can perform their tasks without the risk and nuisance associated with unnecessary clutter. You can use a Lean strategy called the 5S method to do this. It involves five steps: sort, set in order, shine, standardise and sustain. These measures are designed to keep clutter at bay, reduce errors and improve safety.
Take a Strategic Approach to Warehouse Efficiency
Having a holistic overview of warehouse operations enables warehouse managers to plan for efficiency. For example, if certain goods get shipped more than others, having these lines near your exits or aisles will provide accessible locations for workers and/or vehicles to retrieve products and equipment.
Use Appropriate Technology to Help
Automated storage and retrieval systems (ASRS) can accelerate the process of locating and retrieving items. As an alternative to manual handling, automated guided vehicles (AGVs) can transport materials around the warehouse more efficiently.
A warehouse management system (WMS) or an Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system with a strong WMS module can streamline warehouse operations and improve warehouse efficiency by suggesting the best routes and methods for picking or putting away items. Workers on the warehouse floor can use mobile barcode readers or radio frequency identification (RFID) devices to improve transaction accuracy and reduce picking errors.
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