Organizing your warehouse in 2021

Every single day, the warehouse is where the action is. It’s where shipments are received, customer orders are pulled, packed and shipped and inventory is monitored. On top of that, many warehouses perform additional tasks like product packaging. As such, many of a business’s most essential functions flow through the warehouse, so it’s important that the warehouse operates as smoothly as possible.

Let’s see how we can improve your warehouse and better organise it.

1) See the warehouse through an employee’s eyes

Probably the most important aspect is to know what your employee knows and sees. Your employees see the warehouse differently than you, the owner, do.

There’s no substitute for experience on the ground, so visit the warehouse floor and spend some time walking from one area to another. Pretend you’re pulling an order, or packing one, or receiving a shipment. Which operations are slow, awkward or inefficient? How can the layout and organization be improved?

Make sure to get direct feedback on organiza

tional strategies from your warehouse employees and supervisors. Their input will be critical to understanding the actual impact of a warehouse reorganization, as they’re often familiar with the little details that can make all the difference in optimizing a warehouse layout.

During this process, take the time to build working relationships with warehouse employees. This will allow you to keep your ear to the ground on the operational state of the warehouse.

2) Analyze your floor plan

This is a must. You NEED to be able to see the big picture. Get a full warehouse floor plan and look at how it’s organized. Categorize each area by its function (such as shipping, packing, receiving or storage) and look at how foot or forklift traffic from each area flows (or does not flow) into the other areas. Take note of how an employee’s route through the warehouse varies depending on their duties and identify the areas where traffic clusters the most. What are the spots where hang-ups and delays occur and how can it be improved?

Finally, take note of hazardous materials present in your warehouse and include them on your floor plan.

3) Label and organize everything!

The majority of the work can be broken down into a couple of elements. First, remember the 80/20 rule. In most warehouses, 80 percent of orders come from 20 percent of SKUs. One way to take advantage of this principle is through the so-called ABC system:

Category A: The 20 percent of SKUs that receive roughly 80 percent of the orders.

Category B: The next 30 percent of SKUs that receive roughly 15 percent of the orders.

And category C: The 50 percent of SKUs that receive roughly 5 percent of the orders.

Now, Category A should be the most easily accessible to pickers, Category B the second-most accessible and Category C the third-most. It’s an easy way to improve productivity by reducing pick times and making employees’ jobs easier.

Next, give some thought to labeling strategies, as a robust labeling and tracking system is also very important for a functional warehouse inventory. Many of today’s warehouses don’t have traditional labeling but use “pick to light” or “pick to voice” systems that use lighted displays or audio instructions to direct pickers to their next destination. Others use RFID tags that allow instant scanning with handheld RFID scanners.

This is why we think that labeling can go beyond your inventory as well. Everything from forklift parking zones to equipment hooks can be labeled, creating a system with a correct place for everything. And more importantly, don’t be afraid to add reminder notes to address persistent problems that have been targeted for improvement.

4) Make sure you fully utilize all of your space

Warehouse organization is a process of constantly refining and improving your strategies, and one of the biggest keys to success is to optimize your space utilization.

Vertical space utilization is especially important in warehouses, since horizontal space expansion often involves major investments such as remodeling a warehouse or purchasing additional land.

5) Receiving

Receiving and put-away are common problem areas for warehouse efficiency. When goods aren’t received, inventoried and stocked efficiently, many other areas (such as order fulfillment time and inventory accuracy) are also likely to suffer.

Problems in receiving can often be addressed by making sure that your warehouse’s receiving department has adequate space and equipment. Warehouse equipment like a shipping drum caddy makes bulky goods much easier to move, while reorganizing the receiving area can create an improved workflow.

Take note of the paths that flow out of receiving and into storage areas. Since receiving requires dock access, receiving stations have a relatively fixed location that’s rarely far away from the dock. Thus, when evaluating warehouse organization strategies, treat the receiving station as an anchor point and map out different potential warehouse configurations around it, considering how each one might help or hinder employees.

Closing thoughts

A well-organized warehouse creates efficiency and synergy that can spread its positive effects across an entire organization. It can also motivate your employees and workers in a way that you would have never thought of. By following these simple guidelines, we are certain that you’ll notice some major improvements in the workflow around your warehouse.