Improve Your Warehouse Maintenance, Enjoy Superior Supply Chain Efficiency

Most supply chain improvement initiatives start from a pure logistical standpoint. Why aren’t packages processed more efficiently? How can an enterprise improve overall usage of available space? These questions and other similar queries typically drive discussions on better supply chain performance. But are your issues deeper than that? Tom Wilkerson, CEO of, thinks they could be – and warehouse maintenance is a great place to start. Mr. Wilkerson’s forklift certification training and certification programs help companies achieve OSHA compliance. Thanks to his many years of experience as a heavy equipment operator and helping companies with warehouse safety, he has identified proper maintenance procedures as an “unsung hero” of sorts for optimal supply chain management (SCM). Here’s what Mr. Wilkerson had to say on the link between better housekeeping and desirable SCM.

When sourcing professionals, warehouse managers and other personnel look to improve supply chain processes, common culprits include:

  • Sluggish unloading / loading procedures
  • Too much time moving product from shelves / bays to shipping queue areas
  • Poor warehouse layout (or “illogical logistics” from an internal standpoint)
  • Delayed shipments to and from warehouse (3rd party issues)
  • Sub-optimal existing space management

Notice a trend? Many supply chain problems start (and end) with your own warehouse. Sure, sometimes SCM events are out of your control – late shipments, economic downturns, overwhelming orders, etc. – but what many warehouse managers and SCM professionals fail to realize is that supply chain efficiency starts in-house. And that’s where warehouse maintenance & organization comes into play.

A well-maintained workplace is the best possible starting point for efficient supply chain management. When your warehouse is maintained, orderly and clean, many benefits occur:

  • Superior inventory control
  • More efficient inspections (and OSHA audits, more on those later)
  • Streamlined maintenance scheduling and tracking
  • Labor productivity maximized
  • Less equipment and manpower downtime
  • And much more

The question is, how can your organization ensure the best possible maintenance to enjoy streamlined, super-efficient supply chain processes?

Think about proper warehouse maintenance from a dual-tier standpoint. Number one, you want to ensure your actual building (and all associated shelving, floor plans, etc.) is well maintained. And two, you can’t overlook maintenance for your forklifts, man lifts, pallet jacks and other equipment used to manage cargo within your warehouse.

Let’s take a look at these two key aspects of warehouse maintenance.

Warehouse Maintenance – How to Optimize Your Workspace for Better Supply Chain Management

Supply chain efficiency – and safety, as we’ll review in a bit – starts with smart organization with your warehouse layout. But that’s not all; once you’re properly organized, you have to take care of the smallest details to keep your warehouse performance top notch.

Here are some tips & tricks to establish and maintain the most efficient warehouse possible:

  • Put your floorplan in writing. Everything should “flow” in your warehouse to reduce traffic. If your current forklift pathways need updated, make the necessary adjustments and make sure the floorplan is posted for all employees to see.
  • Ensure bays / aisles / shelves are clearly labeled. One of the biggest issues with inefficient warehouses – and subsequently, supply chain processes – has to do with guesswork. Your forklift drivers should always know exactly where they’re at, and keeping easy to read aisle and bay markers is important in this regard.
  • Build up before you build out. In other words, optimize your vertical space to the fullest capacity. This sometimes means investing in some high-reach forklifts, but the effort is well worth it!
  • Conduct regular inspections and sweeps. For inspections, your safety team should look for damaged shelves, blind spots, poor lighting and other latent issues. And “sweeps” are exactly what they sound like: keep your warehouse floor clean and free of debris at all times.

Forklift / Powered Industrial Truck Maintenance – An Underrated Aspect of Smart Warehouse Operations

Your warehouse could be the cleanest distribution center this side of a science lab – but if your vehicles aren’t properly maintained, you can kiss smooth-running supply chain management goodbye.

Thankfully, the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has already laid out a sensible, easy to follow forklift maintenance plan, based on a trio of key safety principles. Follow these guidelines, and watch your supply chain processes automatically improve! The OSHA regulations are as follows:

  • OSHA guideline 29 CFR 1910.178(q)(1) – every forklift requires regular maintenance, and each powered industrial trucks that require repair should immediately be removed from active use. Repairs are done by only qualified and properly trained technicians.
  • OSHA guideline 29 CFR 1910.178(q)(1) – maintain all powered industrial trucks so that the vehicles are clean, free of debris and other substances, including dust, oil, grease and other fluids.
  • OSHA guideline 29 CFR 1910.178(p)(1) – employees and employers should always test drive a forklift that has recently undergone repairs. Failure to do so not only jeopardizes supply chain management…it also compromises safety in a big way!

As you can see, employee safety and efficient supply chain initiatives are closely linked. The fact the two are intertwined makes sense in a practical manner. If your company has an accident or injury, OSHA will likely investigate. You’ll have to show proper training records and demonstrate your current safety policies and operating procedures. All of these administrative activities are a significant burden on your day-to-day operations. And while the end result is a safer workplace, supply chain efficiency can suffer in the short term – yet one more reason why keeping a well-maintained warehouse avoids many supply chain issue in the first place!

Start with a sensible, practical, easy to implement warehouse maintenance plan, and you’ll see an immediate boost in supply chain efficiency! Remember, many of your SCM issues are avoidable once you get your (ware)house in order.

Tom WilkersonAbout the Author

Tom Wilkerson, CEO of, has helped thousands of forklift operators, aerial work platform (AWP) drivers, mobile elevating work platform (MEWP) workers become OSHA compliant with his family of affordable, online certification programs. Mr. Wilkerson’s training companies (including, and are used by hundreds of firms throughout the U.S. for complete OSHA-approved certification and training. Mr. Wilkerson’s safety and training platform is used by more than 80,000 companies and clients in the United States.


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