Maximizing efficiency and staying abreast of modern technology both present challenges to today’s warehouse businesses. Common warehousing issues — no matter how big or small — can lead to underperformance and the incurrence of avoidable costs.
The fundamental principles associated with effective warehouse management include:
- Adjusting stock levels to maximize profitability
- Processing fast and precise sales orders
- Controlling stock movement and storage tightly
- Processing associated transactions resourcefully
- Connecting sales order processing to logistics management
Even if you follow these principles, you can still run into expensive and easily avoidable warehousing problems. The basic processes included in warehouse management are complex and dynamic and can present complications for managers when overlooked. These warehouse management issues can be eliminated by studying the big picture and recognizing the simple solutions each offers: reducing frequent warehouse glitches and materials handling nuisances.
Top Issues Impacting Warehousing Operations
Below, we’ll look at some of the most common warehousing issues and resolutions to overcome them in advance.
Problem #1: Vertical Reach Difficulties for Workers
Warehouse issues can include the adjustments needed for height — requiring workers to bend or overextend themselves to complete tasks at height is not ideal. Along with a slowdown in production, this can lead to an increased risk of worker injury, including back injuries and muscular strains.
Solution: Lifting tables, work assist platforms and ergonomic scissor lifts provide your workforce with the exact angle required to access the contents within totes, boxes and bins. These lifts make it possible for your workers to maintain good posture, move around freely and easily change positions. Spring-loaded mechanical lift tables offer the perfect height positioning of pallets and boxes automatically:
- Level Loading Lift Tables: Level loading lift tables adjust depending on weight and provide a low-cost ergonomic work support for palletizing lines. They are ideal for reducing repetitive stress injuries.
- Stainless Steel Lift Tables: Stainless steel lift tables assist workers when removing materials from boxes, easing the manual lifting required in supplementary processing areas. These are an ideal option for the food, medical and pharmaceutical industries.
- High Level Lift Tables: High level scissor lifts are best for lifting pallets, materials or workers up to mezzanine levels or elevated work zones. They provide exceptional lift height as well as superior stability and strength.
- Floor Level Lift Tables: Floor level lift tables provide meticulous work positioning and side loading. These lift tables are the perfect solution to eliminate injury for both an aging and a diverse workforce.
Problem #2: Insufficient Warehouse Arrangement
If narrow aisles make it difficult to navigate or lead to unintentional damage to materials and products, it’s time to restructure and streamline your space. Having more space to maneuver will improve your productivity, too.
Solution: No matter the size of your warehouse or the amount of free space you have, optimizing work areas can help you avoid unnecessary labor and other costs. Poorly designed layouts are a major source of warehouse management issues due to the inherent potential for adverse effects on profit. Increased labor costs, storing large amounts of materials and products and space-consuming equipment are all contributing factors when it comes to expensive warehousing problems.
Narrow aisle designs allow for more storage space but require pickers and trucks to function in a more restrictive space. To make the most of your space and ensure profits remain high, begin implementing the tips below:
- To minimize travel and wasted time, place fast-moving, high-selling inventory at the front of the facility.
- For a configuration that maximizes horizontal and vertical space, use forklifts that can reach the roof of the warehouse.
- Employ narrow-aisle forklifts to handle tight spaces, including compact forklifts able to drive through a standard-sized doorway.
- Replace large equipment with streamlined space-saving updates, such as pallet dispensers, which allow you to leverage your vertical storage.
Problem #3: Slow Picking From Workers
A vital component of the supply chain process in any warehouse is order picking — the activity by which goods are removed from a warehousing system to fulfill a number of independent orders. An estimated 50 percent of labor resources in warehouses involve picking, packing and shipping. This makes slow picking a warehouse issue in which costs can accumulate quickly.
Solution: Six ways picking operations can be improved include the following:
- Eliminate multiple processes and human handling by employing bar codes and handheld scanners.
- Improve accuracy and picking time by having a separate pick location for every SKU.
- Reduce travel time by employing batch and cluster order picking strategies.
- Improve picking productivity by designing your facility to allow for horizontal picking rather than vertical. Employ “hit” density to increase pick productivity by setting up hot zones to concentrate the SKUs that generate the most picking.
- Improve picking time by integrating equipment, such as pallet inverters, to eliminate time wasted moving heavy loads manually.
Problem #4: Inaccurate Inventory Counts
Inaccurate inventory can cause several different warehouse management issues, including increased costs, lost revenue, low productivity, improper stock levels and obsolete inventory. Sustaining accurate inventory management processes, such as basic record maintenance and proper documentation, are crucial for organization success — including the ability to deliver excellent customer service and accurate product shipping lead times, decrease operating costs and ensure correct financial documentation.
Solution: To increase your competitive advantage, incorporate warehouse operations that are proficient in managing inventory and accurate inventory records. Several ways to guarantee your company is efficiently and accurately operating its warehouse inventory management processes include:
- Keep a well-organized warehouse: Ensure you have easy-to-read maps of your warehouse in convenient areas along with clear signage and item descriptions.
- Create proper inventory naming and labeling: Name and label each item with detailed descriptions to allow for quick and easy identification.
- Follow efficient storage and receipt procedures: Include step-by-step procedures for physical interaction, safety guidelines, material handling and reporting.
- Utilize cycle counting: Count inventory in smaller groups over a longer period of time to provide an ongoing assessment and cause fewer disruptions to daily operations.
- Limit and track inventory access: Provide inventory data access to only select, properly-trained individuals.
- Use equipment and technology to your advantage: Improve workflow by custom-engineering new or existing products and incorporating custom automation to your needs.
Problem #5: Inefficient Warehouse Layout
For the ideal warehousing operation, you should have the right amount of space at your site — and that includes more than the floor area. You need vertical height and unobstructed space for material handling equipment. Docks and loading bay areas must be properly laid out. Ample room for turnaround and parking is required. Security and safety are important. So is energy efficiency. Low maintenance and operating costs are necessary, as is flexibility for future expansion. Making sure it works correctly is another matter altogether.
Solution: The key to warehouse efficiency lies in your design and layout. Here are some important points to evaluate when designing and laying out your warehouse location space:
- Flow: This is the logical sequence of all your operational steps. One activity follows another and all processes need to function together seamlessly. Warehouses depend on the continuous and controlled movement of material, equipment and workers. Every aspect of your warehouse activities need to be designed and laid out with an efficient flow in mind.
- Accessibility: This goes beyond making your warehouse facility accessible to the road, rail, sea or air. It goes deep inside your facility to ensure easy access to all your equipment and products. Think of all your access points. It starts and ends on the loading dock with shipping and receiving, but it includes every inside touchpoint as well.
- Space: Space is often at a premium in warehouses. You should always think of your warehouse as a cube. You not only need to work within a confined floor space, but you must also consider height. Vertical space is a major factor that can give you the best return on your warehouse investment.
- Throughput: This is the “sum” of all your warehouse operations. It’s how you handle products from the time you manufacture them to the moment the consumer receives them. Throughput occurs continuously in a warehouse. It involves moving material with specialized equipment like pallet inverters and securing loaded pallets with stretch wrap machines. So much of your throughput efficiency comes from properly designing your warehouse and using quality material handling and storage equipment.
Problem #6: Material Handling & Moving Inefficiencies
If your employees tend to take up valuable time by constantly carrying items from one location to another, it may be time to evaluate more resourceful options.
Solution: Portable lift tables allow you to transport heavy items throughout the warehouse without any heavy lifting involved. Rather than pushing an unreliable mover throughout the warehouse, a sturdy, heavyweight lift table will ensure your products are easily moved without risk of damage, injury or slow progress.
Problem #7: The Slow Progress of Manual Labor
If you are concerned about missing opportunities to increase your operation’s efficiency through automation, you may have a point. Even if your operation is running smoothly, some common warehouse management challenges can be resolved by integrating the right automated systems.
Solution: Examine every aspect of your warehouse business needs to make sure you’re using the right equipment for each task. Investing in quality material handling and storage equipment has a tremendous return by making your facility safer, more efficient and more prosperous. The list below details automated warehouse material handling equipment and how purchasing them for your warehouse delivers an excellent return on investment:
- Pallet inverters: Nearly every warehouse facility uses pallets in one form or another. Inverters rotate 180 degrees to make pallet exchanges quick and effortless. There is a wide selection of pallet inverters available to help control costs, reduce product damage and prevent worker injuries. Heavy-duty pallet inverters will handle every application.
- Pallet dispensers: Dispensers are also crucial for material handling. Industrial pallet dispensers have an overhead gantry and allow high stacking that’s safe and efficient. Workers don’t have to manually pick pallets one by one. Industrial pallet dispensers issue pallets automatically. This increases pick rates and reduces employee turnover by eliminating stressful and hazardous working conditions.
- Stretch wrap machines: These could save you a great deal of time and labor. Pallets bound by a stretch wrapper hold tighter and longer than with hand-wrapping. Stretch wrap machines eliminate strenuous manual labor and allow your loads to leave with higher security. Choose from turntable stretch wrappers, overhead models or robotic and automated stretch wrapping machines. No modern warehouse should be without a reliable stretch wrap machine.
Problem #8: Unsanitary Material Handling Tools
When working with the food and pharmaceutical industries, sanitation and cleanliness are crucial factors. Wooden pallets are a major source of contaminants and will eventually break down and wear out over time. Risking the contamination of your products and materials could result in costly warehousing issues. Avoid them by implementing a more cost-effective and sustainable choice.
Solution:Plastic pallets might not seem like a big-ticket item, but they’ll make your operation flow faster and increase throughput. Plastic pallets have every advantage over cumbersome and dirty wooden pallets. They weigh less and last far longer, making them a sound investment. Plastic pallets are safer and easier to use in automated equipment like pallet inverters, pallet dispensers and pallet washers. They’re also more efficient when used with a stretch wrap machine. Making the switch from wood to plastic pallets offers several cost-saving advantages.
Problem #9: Warehouse Space at Maximum Capacity
If your facility has experienced continued growth and you are at or near full capacity, you might be struggling to think of ways to incorporate more space. If your warehouse is utilizing a large area where workers are performing inventory transfers by hand, we have a variety of solutions for you.
Solution: There are several ways to optimize and free up your current space. By incorporating space-saving equipment, you can obtain more valuable space to improve operational efficiency. Freezer spacer removers are ideal for cold storage warehouse operations. They’re built to accommodate heavy demands from continuous workloads in cold environments. Freezer spacer removers can combine loads and change pallets in seconds. They have simple-to-use controls and reliable components. Available models include the PSR, VBED and the SR2 inline systems. Pallet inverters can assist with automating the load transfer process. Don’t spend time, space and manpower on simple tasks when you could improve warehouse storage and worker productivity exponentially!
Problem #10: Unsafe Worker Practices
A safe workplace benefits everyone. Work goes smoothly and lawsuits and downtime are avoided. One of the major warehouse management challenges faced today is ensuring the safety of your workforce. The warehousing industry has a higher-than-average fatality rate. There are several potential hazards for warehouse workers. Some of the most common include:
- Unsafe operation of forklifts
- Improper product stacking
- Failure to use personal protection equipment
- Inadequate fire safety requirements
- Repetitive motion injuries
Solution: If you observe your workers using unsafe practices to increase their efficiency or to make their jobs easier, you need to prioritize and assess your safety implications to avoid costly accidents. By implementing automated systems and equipment, your workforce can take on less physically exhausting work and increase productivity. Here are some examples of systems you can employ:
- Pallet dispensers: These are crucial for material handling. Industrial pallet dispensers have an overhead gantry and allow high stacking that’s safe and efficient. Workers don’t have to manually pick pallets one by one — industrial pallet dispensers issue pallets automatically. This increases pick rates and reduces employee turnover by eliminating stressful and hazardous working conditions.
- Pallet tippers and upenders: There are many models available, including economy, low-duty, high-cycle, mechanical and high-capacity upenders and pallet tippers. They simplify the dangerous task of moving pallets by hand or with a forklift while being loaded. Standard configurations include floor-level, end-to-end, raised-height, side-to-side and low-level. Pallet tippers and upenders are also available as mechanical, electric and hydraulic machines.
- Washing equipment: Hygiene is vital in many warehouse settings. Pallet washers, pallet dryers and tray space washers are mandatory in warehouses that continuously handle food products. You don’t have to worry about cross-contamination when you mechanically wash, dry and store pallets in a clean environment.
Your entire operation needs an environment where safety is paramount and forms a core of your company culture. It comes down to you, as a business leader, taking the position that, “Safety is the way we do business around here." That starts with conducting assessments and using the right safety equipment to adhere to industrial safety and risk-reduction standards.
Maximize Your Warehouse Safety, Organization and Efficiency with Cherry’s Industrial Equipment
Cherry's Industrial Equipment is a company that understands your warehouse challenges. We’ve worked for 35 years with industries across the U.S. to supply American-made industrial equipment that provides solutions to challenges like yours. That solution might be to make your production more efficient. It might be to increase your throughput. Or it might be to help keep your workers safe and your facility accident-free. No matter how many warehouse issues give you pause, you’re sure to find the answer at Cherry’s Industrial. We are experts on improving warehouse efficiency and safety and we are happy to take on any challenge you can throw at us.
Contact Cherry’s Industrial Equipment today or call us at 800-350-0011 to learn more about common warehouse issue solutions and explore our selection of material handling products.