Improving the Overall Efficiency and Safety of Your Warehouse
If you are operating a warehouse of any type, you’ll want to make sure you are following industry best practices to help ensure everything is getting done in an efficient manner. If you don’t take the time to make sure you are doing things properly, there will be a lot of wasted time and effort throughout the facility.
Take a look at the following ‘top ten’ best practices, and see which ones are being followed in your facility, and which ones aren’t. Even the ones that you already have in place, double check to see if they are being followed properly; you may be able to find some innovative ways to improve upon them.
Top Ten Warehouse Best Practices
These ten warehouse best practices are gathered from industries throughout the country. Each of them has been shown to be an effective way to improve the way the facility operates not only in individual areas, but as a whole.
Some of them will need to be implemented in a very strict and standard way, and others can be customized to fit well with your facility. Regardless of how they are implemented, it is important that you take the time to find and follow established best practices.
“Supply chain executives are faced with the challenge of reducing labor costs, but at the same time, customers are placing more orders with smaller quantities.” – Marc Wulfraat, President, MWPVL
#1 – Continuous Training
While everyone knows that training is important in any job, it is really essential to take it a step further. You need to have everyone in the facility engaged in a process of ongoing training. Weather this means reviewing job duties, or learning additional responsibilities, you will quickly see the benefits when you start to make job training a priority in your facility.
#2 – Monitor Change
Most warehouses are experts at gathering data and looking at things like product loss and the amount of work being performed per employee. While this is good and important, you will also want to monitor for change throughout the facility.
In most cases, when any type of statistic has a noticeable change, it is the result of something that you need to be aware of. If the change is a positive one, find out what triggered it and see if you can replicate the improvements. If it is a negative change, look for the root cause and fix it right away.
#3 – Empower Employees
While warehouse work often requires specific standards to be followed, you also want to encourage your employees to watch out for improvement opportunities. Make sure they know they have the ability and the authority to try new things, as long as it is done in a safe and efficient way.
You can mitigate the risk of people making bad choices by requiring the employees to fill out some sort of trial report when they make these efforts. The report can have information about what they changed, and why, as well as the results. When they find that their efforts result in an improvement, roll out the change throughout the facility. When they don’t, revert back to the previous standard.
This will not only result in finding new and improved ways of doing things, but it will also give you a more engaged workforce, which is always beneficial.
#4 – Improve Communication
SafetyTac Hazard Floor Tape
Don’t make the mistake of thinking that if you send out a written report or notice to the employees that they will actually read it. Communication is one of the most important things for any facility, and it must be taken very seriously. Look at the following types of communication and evaluate how your facility is handling them:
- Procedure Communication – You need to make sure employees are aware of updated procedures. This should be done by verbal communication from a direct supervisor and/or through formal training provided by the company.
- Hazard Communication – Alerting people to different types of hazards in the facility is essential. This can be done through safety floor signs, labels, floor tape and training. However you handle it, make sure everyone is aware of what risks are present.
- Performance Communication – It is important to let people know how they are doing, and how they can improve. You don’t want to just offer annual performance evaluations and then ignore this type of communication for the rest of the year.
- General Communication – Make sure the management team is taking the time to chat with employees on a regular basis. Asking how things are going, and then really listening, will help your facility come up with some great insights and improvement ideas.
#5 – Improve the Lighting
Many warehouses like to save money by keeping the lights low. Others are just operating in an older facility where the lighting was installed ten or more years ago. Whatever the reason, evaluate your lighting and see how it can be improved.
Warehouses are inherently dangerous, and having inadequate lighting will only make it worse. Take the time and money necessary to install a good lighting system that will ensure people can see no matter where they are in the facility.
#6 – Only automate what makes Sense
Automation techniques have revolutionized the warehouse industry over the past several decades. While this is certainly a good thing, many companies are taking it too far. There is such thing as over automating, and it can result in a lot of wasted time and effort.
Make sure you review each situation carefully to see if automation is a smart move. If it is, implement it properly to get the most benefit. If you won’t have improved results and an improved bottom line, than automation just for the sake of automation simply does not make sense.
#7 – Eliminate Travel Time
One of the biggest areas where warehouses lose efficiency is when employees need to walk or drive to a different part of the facility to get parts, or move products. Whatever the reason, it takes up a lot of time and effort.
Look into ways that you can reduce this type of waste as much as possible. This could be by combining trips or reorganizing different products or machines. Whatever you can do to cut out wasted travel will help improve the efficiency of your facility dramatically.
#8 – Always Gather Data, but only pay attention to some of it
You should always be gathering data about every aspect of your facility. No matter what type of data it is or where it comes from, it should all be gathered and available to review. Equally important, however, is knowing when to ignore some of that data. In some cases, it is just a waste of time to review every piece of information that comes in as soon as it is gathered.
Keep in mind that some of the data won’t be useful for years down the road, but at that point it can be used to establish trends. Whenever you get a piece of data in, ask yourself what benefit you or the facility will realize by analyzing it right away. If there is none, than ignore it for now and move on to more productive things.
#9 – Organize Everything
You should evaluate whether or not your facility is properly organized on a regular basis. While you don’t want to be moving heavy machinery around every year, it can be helpful to adjust the way things are stored or how specific jobs get done.
Taking the time to really look at where each item is, and determining whether or not that is the most efficient location for it to be is a good idea. Analyzing your facility annually is a great start, but you can also catch things on the fly. Simple changes like adding warehouse aisle signs so people know what aisle they are in, can radically improve efficiency and improve your bottom line. This is one area where you can engage the employees to make recommendations on how to improve the organization and layout of your facility.
#10 – Don’t be Afraid of Mistakes
Perhaps the most important of these best practices is the one that most facilities refuse to truly implement. Even employers who claim to be ok with people making mistakes tend to over analyze and really come down on situations where something goes wrong.
If you really want to become an innovative warehouse where you come up with cutting edge ways of doing things (not to mention have industry leading profits), you can’t be afraid of mistakes. Always encourage employees at all levels to come up with new ideas and see how they work.
As long as the idea doesn’t compromise safety, it should be honestly evaluated and given a fair shot. Even if the majority of new ideas fail, you will find that in the long run your facility will be far better off by allowing people to make mistakes without fear of punishment.
Find your own Best Practices
In addition to the above ten best practices for your warehouse, make sure you are also evaluating all the activities that go on and see which ones work best for you. Keep in mind that at one point, today’s best practices were just innovative ideas that a warehouse decided to give a try. Figure out what works best for you and you’ll find that your bottom line will always be growing.
Contact Creative Safety Supply at 1-866-777-1360 for all your safety sign, floor tape, vinyl label, and hazardous communication needs.
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