The Ultimate Guide To Managing Warehouse Flow: Optimization Check

Did you know that Amazon runs its warehouses with robots?

Gone are the days of warehouses where workers scurried to and fro to collect packages. These days, warehouses are optimized machines–that use machines in the process. And one of the most important principles to pull off in a warehouse is warehouse flow.

Warehouse flow is the principle of streamlining all warehouse processes so that it functions as smoothly as possible. This means that packages never get stuck in transit, and shipping times are as fast as possible.

As important as this principle of warehouse management is, it’s easier said than done. In this guide, we will cover everything you need to know about warehouse flow.

Maximize Warehouse Flow With Vertical Storage

Time and time again, warehouses tend to make very poor use of their spaces. They are often very spacious buildings with high ceilings. Go to just about any warehouse, and you’re guaranteed to see several dozen feet of unused aerial space.

This is often to maximize airflow with ceiling-mounted ventilation systems, as warehouses tend to get very stuffy. However, it’s a poor choice to let all of it go to waste. Successful warehouses build shelves as high as is safely possible to make sure there’s no need to expand outward unnecessarily.

However, you don’t want to slow down production just because it’s riskier for a forklift to reach so high. It’s best then to implement conveyor belt systems that operate on the ceiling through trolleys. This helps to store and reach anything high up.

You can also consider pocket sorters, which prevent wasting all of that overhead space. Many companies are developing climbing robots that use rails to access them, too. Keep up-to-date with the latest developments, as these modern warehouse technologies make them more efficient.

Take Advantage of Automated Systems

Too many warehouses continue to rely on human workers to staff all of their needs. The reality is, automation is here, and it’s very good. You can automate virtually every process in the warehouse.

Picking, for example, is a very time-consuming process. It requires attention-oriented workers to hunt through items for a specific SKU. Even with a warehouse in perfect order, this takes an inordinate amount of time.

One of the ways to solve picking is with RFID tags. This allows employees to hunt down items with a smart tracking device. They can home in on the RFID tag that they need, and find it in a fraction of the time.

Many warehouses are turning to using robotic sorters, packers, and pickers. While these technologies are in their infancy, they are often a better option than human workers. They make fewer mistakes, work longer hours, and cost less in the long run.

As we mentioned earlier in the article, Amazon has already staffed many of its warehouses with robots. The sorting robots work day and night, picking from pallets and delivering SKUs straight to their destination conveyor belt. This impressive technology works seamlessly, with a very small margin of error.

Returns and Refurbishment

A common issue at warehouses is the challenge with returned items. Many of these items are brand-new, and therefore require examination and repackaging before they can be sold again. This is a time-consuming process that causes huge losses in revenues.

Many companies are turning to automated systems for this entire department. You no longer have to rely on the poor decision-making of human operators. Machines can sort everything and prepare returns for resale.

Integration With Automated Driving Systems

Beyond the warehouse, many logistics companies are turning to self-driven vehicles. These semi-trucks and other small delivery vehicles rely on fleet intelligence to get to their destination.

There is often mismatched communication between humans and automated vehicles. For example, a semi-truck trying to back into the loading bay. With automated systems that account for this, loading and unloading get a lot easier.

Warehouse flow benefits the most when warehouses are forward-thinking. Even if this technology is not yet widespread, being prepared for when it is will make all the difference.

Have Robust Safety Options

One of the fastest ways that you can harm warehouse flow is the accidents that occur on the work floor. Most commonly, collapsing shelves or heavy machinery collisions stall productivity. Legal issues, shift deficiencies, and worker compensation force a warehouse to grind operations to a halt.

Therefore, it’s important to install decent security measures. This includes labeling the robot-only areas and educating employees to be vigilant. 

Make sure all employees have the proper safety gear. Make sure to regularly go over safety protocol just in case they forget. Always have an OSHA specialist on hand.

To prevent safety from getting in the way of effective warehouse flow, update to modern standards. Much has changed just in the past twenty years. Warehouse operations have come a long way from worker protections of the past.

Maintain Equipment

Breakdowns are another fatal blow to your warehouse flow. Employees may not take maintenance of their equipment with the same seriousness as you do.

Make sure that they perform checks on forklifts. Check employee safety equipment on a regular basis. Install things like rack protection to prevent wear on your shelving.

If something is failing, replace it as soon as possible. It’s better to spend more money now, than a ton of money later after equipment failure.

Make Use of WES Software

Your WES software, which stands for warehouse execution system, should be your new best friend. This is premium warehouse management software. It uses machine learning to ensure that your warehouse runs as smoothly as possible.

In addition to managing your existing warehouse, it can help you to identify issues. For example, it can recognize when there are collaboration difficulties between different software. Then you can resolve those problems and return to your normal warehouse optimization.

It also helps to avoid bugs as a result of poor coding. Often times there is old code from a previous program or programmer that has a lot of issues. WES software gives a smooth installation of your existing systems and peripherals.

Better Organize Your Current Warehouse Layout

Chances are, you have the same warehouse layout as you had ten years ago. You simply adapted as you went, leaving the general form intact. While this may be something your employees are used to, there’s a good chance you can improve.

First, identify your high-value and high-traffic items. Place these closest to the conveyor belts and loading bays. Keep less common items further away.

Organize items into their respective categories. This helps with your RFID automation. Keep similar items in the same area, reducing the time employees spend picking.

Get insight from your current employees. There’s a good chance that they have suggestions on how to maximize the warehouse space. Take their word seriously, as they likely suffered firsthand from any inefficiencies.

Streamline the Hiring Process

Workhouse flow isn’t just about what occurs every day in the warehouse. It also has to do with the sorts of people you are hiring. Hiring high-quality individuals seems simple enough in theory, but difficult in practice.

One of the biggest issues is the dearth of applicants in warehouse-type businesses. Smaller generations and the job crunch are forcing employers to be much more competitive than they were in the past. You may discover that you have to make some changes to entice new employees.

For starters, you likely need to hike the wages. Keeping wages competitive and in sync with inflation will be a huge plus for your employees. So will regular performance-based bonuses.

Include worthwhile benefits as well. This incentivizes employees to work harder, and do a better job while they do.

While this may not seem like it has anything to do with optimizing the layout, it is important. Warehouse workers often feel minimal desire to serve their company well. Unless they have a good reason to do so, they’re going to make your warehouse flow horribly inefficient.

Have Quality Control in an Accessible Location

Quality control is the bedrock of the services you provide. Without them, you would have no idea how well you are serving customers. Quality control can often identify bad shipments before they go out to the trucks.

Quality control should be one of your focuses when improving warehouse flow. They should be in a centralized location, somewhere between sorting and packing. They need to stay out of others’ way, while also being available.

Quality control needs to work as fast as possible, while also maintaining a high level of accuracy. Use automation in tandem with human operators to inspect products. This redundancy makes sure that cargo pallets all meet your high standards.

Optimize Your Warehouse Today

Warehouse flow is a difficult thing to implement. It requires organizing your warehouse, implementing automation,  and cultivating healthy work culture. If you take the time to put the above into practice, you will see the benefits.

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James Morkel

Tech website author with a passion for all things technology. Expert in various tech domains, including software, gadgets, artificial intelligence, and emerging technologies. Dedicated to simplifying complex topics and providing informative and engaging content to readers. Stay updated with the latest tech trends and industry news through their insightful articles.

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