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Here’s How to Overcome Nine Warehouse Problems

The global economy wouldn’t be able to function without warehouses. Virtually every industry relies on supply chains, which need warehouses, so these facilities must run as efficiently as possible. Still, problems persist even in the largest and most productive companies.

If you’re a warehouse manager, you’re likely already aware of the need for improvement. Seeing how to move forward isn’t always clear, though. Warehouse solutions typically aren’t as evident as the problems they fix.

With that in mind, here are nine common warehouse problems and how to overcome them.

1. Worker Safety

The warehousing industry has an injury rate of 4.1 per 100 full-time workers. As such, safety should be a leading concern for any facility. Thankfully, there’s no shortage of ways you can reduce your workplace injury rate.

Perhaps the most effective step to take is to hold regular and thorough safety training sessions. Many, if not most, accidents are the result of human error. Another crucial step is to ensure only specially trained and certified employees can operate machinery like forklifts. Requiring machine check-ins will also hold these workers accountable.

2. Inaccurate Inventory Records

One of the most pervasive and impactful issues warehouses face is inaccurate or incomplete inventory records. When there’s a discrepancy between what you think you have and what you do, it leads to disruptions and delays. The answer here is to remove the human element as much as possible from inventory record-keeping.

Inaccuracies tend to arise out of mistakes in manual data collecting and reporting. Using an automated warehouse management system (WMS) can help you avoid these errors. Look for a solution that tracks inventory through as many points as possible, from shipment arrivals to shelving to order fulfillment.

3. Supply Chain Visibility

Many warehouse solutions fail to account for outside factors, like the timeliness of your shipping partners. Shipping delays can add 20% to your shipping costs from things like fuel expenses and lost customers. Like with inventory management, the answer to this problem lies in data.

If your company controls its own shipping, implement IoT technology in your vehicles and adopt fleet management software. That way, you can see where all shipments are in real-time and adjust accordingly. If you use a third party, look for partners that provide more transparency, and consider switching companies if your current partner doesn’t.

4. Poor Space Optimization

If you hope to become as efficient as possible, you’ll need to make the most of your space. Poor optimization can lead to safety hazards and make it difficult for employees to navigate. Maximizing your space will fix these issues and enable you to host more inventory or employees in the same building.

One of the first steps you should take is choosing the right containers for your space and function. Next, use your WMS to see where your most picked items are and rearrange them so they’re closer together. You can also collect data from other areas of the warehouse to see if there are any redundancies you can combine into one workflow.

5. Slow Picking Times

Picking is the core of warehouse operations, yet many facilities don’t take as many steps as they could to improve it. Many track employees’ rates and reward better times, but stop there. You can further fix this common warehouse problem by embracing technology.

Depending on your budget and inventory, you may be able to implement automated picking solutions. You can also use data analytics to find the most efficient routes based on frequently picked items and warehouse layout. Incorporating technologies like conveyor belts and lifts can help employees move products more efficiently, too.

6. Damaged Inventory

If you want your returns to be as high as possible, you’ll have to avoid inventory damage. While there are tax and insurance protections for damage from natural events, those don’t cover product loss from mistakes. Many things can damage your inventory, and most of them result from a lack of care.

Employees trying to raise their picking rates or machines moving too fast can lead to product loss. The solution here is to enable more efficiency without needing workers and equipment to move more quickly. Focus on reorganizing shelves and workflows over increasing speed. You can also replace old machines with newer, gentler ones.

7. Fluctuating Demand

All warehouse solutions should consider how demand fluctuates between seasons in this industry. Around the holidays, delivery rates typically surge 30%-40%, sometimes surpassing that. Underpreparation can lead to delays, and overcompensation can lead to postseason surplus and losses.

The traditional solution to this problem is to hire seasonal workers, but that doesn’t always work. Automation is typically more reliable, as it involves just a one-time expense since you can reuse the same robots year-to-year. You should also use data analytics software to predict seasonal spikes so you can prepare accordingly.

8. Labor Shortages

The logistics industry faces a labor shortage as demand far outgrows the number of incoming workers. Since you may have trouble acquiring human talent in the future, your best course of action may be to maximize current workers’ efficiency.

Automation is the inevitable solution here. Picking robots, autonomous pallet jacks and automatic packaging systems are all growing in availability and efficacy. You shouldn’t aim to replace your workforce with robots but rather supplement them with automation.

You can also improve the workers’ efficiency by establishing reward programs. If you honor productivity and loyalty, you’ll encourage your current employees and attract new ones.

9. Inefficient Paperwork

One often overlooked warehouse problem is inefficiency in administrative work. Scheduling, bill management and document filing all take time. These low-level tasks can take 30% of your time and cost up to $25 per manually filed invoice.

Robotic process automation (RPA) can automate these tasks so you can focus on more value-adding work. Computers are far more efficient at data-heavy and repetitive jobs than people, so they’re ideal for paperwork.

Don’t Let Common Warehouse Problems Hinder Your Growth

You can solve many warehouse problems by implementing modern technology. If you embrace data and automation, you can turn your facility into a far more efficient machine.

Every facility has unique needs and resources, so optimal warehouse solutions may likewise differ. Still, these answers have proven track records across various sectors, so you can trust in their efficacy. You may not have an issue with all of these, but chances are you can benefit from at least a few.

Emily NewtonEmily Newton is the Editor-in-Chief of Revolutionized Magazine. She has over 3 years covering stories about warehousing, logistics and distribution.


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