When looking at the factors that affect warehouse productivity, some things are out of your control, like sales volume, item variety, order profiles, or contract rules. On the other hand, some key levers are within your control:
Align staffing policies with warehouse productivity targets
Never lose sight of good practices such as proper supervision and frequent benchmarking. Additionally, the implementation of several initiatives can improve labor productivity:
- Workload balancing: often, a majority of the work occurs during the first half of a shift; staffing – and what is expected of the workforce – must address this reality. See an example through a replenishment short story (#3)
- Engineered standards: establish performance standards which are fair and aligned with expectations. Monitor & enforce the standards.
- Incentive programs: reward performance, quality and speed. Whether it is by employee or by team, a properly calibrated program will encourage hard work and be beneficial to all.
Marry up the physical warehouse layout to the operation
- Have an appropriately sized pick line where the slot of each item balances space utilization and labor tied to the replenishment and selection of this slot. Read more about pick line productivity
- Adjust slotting and family sequencing to adapt to seasonality and other demand variability factors
- Ergonomics: from inbound pallet sizes to pick slot configurations, give ergonomics the importance it deserves; not only will it improve warehouse productivity but it will reduce product damage as well as the risk of injuries
- Different order profiles warrant different processes. For instance, batch picking proves to be adequate for a foodservice operator while zone picking is appropriate for a hardware retailer
- Congestion creates bottlenecks. There is no doubt that dock and aisles must provide sufficient space for mobile equipment to circulate freely, especially during peak times
Get the most out of technology
Many technological alternatives support the ability to operate faster and virtually error-free. From WMS to voice-directed picking, some technologies can yield tremendous value both from a productivity standpoint and the richness of information they provide:
- Inventory accuracy is critical to an operation’s performance
- System-directed work assignments will contribute to uniform efficiency
- Hands-free activities will provide labor with an edge
Though much is out of your control, you can positively affect warehouse productivity with careful attention to staffing policies, warehouse layouts and technology.