Complete Guide to Warehouse Management: Chapter 1
Introduction: What Could You Accomplish With a Safer, Streamlined, More Efficient Warehouse?
Today's warehousing and inventory management best practices are continually evolving.
Every warehouse manager wants to implement cost-effective, confident solutions across today’s cutting-edge warehouse operations — solutions that improve order efficiency, employee productivity, inventory management and warehouse safety and security.
At Cherry’s Industrial Equipment, we live to solve precisely this.
In our three decades of inventory management and warehouse-solutions experience, we’ve seen trends shift, technology advance and practices come and go. We know it takes more than computers or flashy equipment to run an operational, successful warehouse, one where inventory moves in and out of your warehouse center in routine, fluid systems. One where employees have their safety and ease top of mind in a compliant, competent work environment. One where orders and processing go through defined channels and where management oversees straightforward workflow checkpoints, from consignment through order processing and final packaging before shipment.
Oh, and one where the warehouse is large, neatly organized and easy to navigate. Sound familiar?
We want to bring you today’s best warehousing and inventory management tips, tricks, practices and procedures. We aim to do this directly, with real solutions and systems you can implement across every stage of your warehouse — beginning right here, today.
With this complete warehouse management guide, you’ll spend less time tied up in operations and more time streamlining deliverables. You’ll see how you can better manage:
Warehouse goals, key performance indicators and business insights
Warehouse employees, from training to output and everything in between
Warehouse equipment, mechanical to automated
Warehouse organization, layout and flow
Facility safety and security
Improved operations compliance and oversight
Cost-effective product inventory and workflow solutions
A better-managed warehouse means a better-managed business. This guide to warehouse management reviews industry best practices so you can bridge the gaps between all your warehouse sectors and make your inventory and warehousing practices as innovative — and functional — as possible.
Warehousing 101: What Does It Mean to Plan, Manage and Run Today’s Warehouse?
Contemporary warehouses are a complex environment of procedures — manual, mechanical and more. Tasks overlap in an organized order-processing chain, with employees and managers alike working within set timelines and available resources to execute a successful workflow.
Today’s warehouse management systems must reflect that. This guide explores how.
Main Sectors of an Operational Warehouse
Each part of the warehouse works as a spoke in its wheel of operations. Some sectors, by their nature, allow for more innovation and creativity, while others need to be straightforward for the entire top-down warehouse process to remain effective.
Every warehouse contains the following designated areas. Each of them offers a vital checkpoint within the entire process of completing an order, and each has a part to play in streamlined workflows:
Inbound orders and order processing: Initial package processing, labeling and organization at an incoming or delivery dock, complemented by its picking, retrieval, order review and distribution at outbound or shipping docks.
Inventory management: The oversight and organization of stock within the warehouse, as well as stock flow from the warehouse to its distributing points of sale.
Inventory storage: The physical environment of a warehouse, from shelving and floor controls to the warehouse's storage layout.
Warehouse equipment: Mechanical, manual or digital tools for enhancing the speed and accuracy of warehouse tasks.
Facility safety and security: Not only for compliance but also for the sake of your employees and your brand.
Order fulfillment: The complete process for successful order turnaround, from receiving an order to retrieving inventory to packaging and final shipment.
Employees and personnel oversight: Human capital is just as — if not more — important than product capital. Labor is the most expensive variable in running a warehouse. Make sure yours is trained, supported, reliable and efficient.
Warehouse Management by Industry
Warehouse management solutions are tailored to their industry. After all, the needs and functions of a warehouse in the bakery industry are fundamentally different than those for fertilizer storage, which will be different for pharmaceuticals, which will vary from e-commerce consumer products.
Typical industries that rely on warehouses today include:
Retail warehousing: From traditional retail operations distributing to stores to the boom of online e-commerce, retail warehousing comprises 55 percent of the warehouse and distribution industry’s revenue. Retail-specific warehouse management must contest with high order turnover, product scale and diversity and high-functioning storage.
Manufacturing warehousing: Manufacturing warehouse management is an essential midway in a supply chain. Housing raw materials, completed, or partially completed parts and products, manufacturing warehouses must be succinctly organized and tightly cost-effective, plus deal with heavy domestic and international competition.
Food and beverages/cold storage warehousing: Food and beverage warehouses often contain unique infrastructures, such as refrigeration or cold storage. This means unique stock handling equipment, storage and floor controls on top of stringent safety and contamination regulations.
Farm products warehousing: Agricultural warehousing accounts for bulk farming products and equipment, with the leading segment dedicated to grain storage. These warehouses must remain proactive in a particularly variable industry, tempered by yields, consumer tastes, developing country demands and international trade policies alongside cousin factors like natural gas prices and biofuel interest.
Records storage: Information and records management may not have the same kinds of order-processing functionality as other warehouse types. Yet industry-specific concerns exist, such as security, computerized inventory systems and climate control to keep paper and other sensitive records intact.
Warehouse Management Goal Setting
When it comes to improving warehouse management procedures, no progress can be accomplished without first setting strategic business goals.
It’s these goals that will provide a clear vision as you move through this guide. Every warehouse likely has procedures it currently executes well, just as it contains pain points, underutilizations or growth areas not hitting target business benchmarks.
It is vital for warehouse managers to identify growth opportunities that complement current process strengths without completely disrupting the warehouse. Yes, you want to make your warehouse run more smoothly, quickly and cost-effectively. But what exactly does that mean for your facility — and where can you realistically start?
Before moving on, take time to consider current metrics and key performance indicators (KPIs) for your warehouse such as those listed below, starting where they are and where you’d like them to be:
Completed order lead time: From processing, assembling and dispatching the order.
Costs-per analysis: Cost per shipped order, cost per box, cost per return and more.
Inventory handling and stacking: Spatial pain points, out-of-date shelving, poor stock organization or inaccessibility.
Digitized inventory management systems: Tracking stock levels, stock orders, consumer orders, sales, shipping information and all other general indexed warehousing activity.
Occupational safety and training: From onboarding new warehouse employees and OSHA safety and compliance to securely handling and training on floor equipment.
Additional overhead costs: New or updated warehouse storage, shelving, equipment, temperature controls, utilities, security features, facility prices and more.
Use these KPIs as you continue through this guide, buffering other goals or targets you may have for the direction of your warehouse. Remember to keep goals as quantifiable, if possible. But don’t miss out on other improvement sectors or process desires that sometimes can’t be measured by numbers. All goals should work together to create a high-functioning direction for the warehouse.