Maybe you don’t know why your warehouse is struggling to keep up — you just know that it is struggling. For many organizations, what goes on in the warehouse is a great mystery.
Here are 8 reasons why your warehouse isn’t performing like it should, and how you can begin fixing it, starting today.
1. You’re just not fast enough
Once upon a time, customers were simply happy to receive the goods they ordered, even if it took weeks for an order arrive. That was before automated systems made picking faster. It doesn’t matter if you operate in a huge city or the sleepy countryside. Distribution is an entirely new game now, and you’ve got competition like never before.
Fix: You need automation, and not just any automation. You need a warehouse management system that integrates with your ERP and your shipping systems, as well as your carousels and conveyors. And you need it now.
2. You upgrade infrequently
Modern automation systems and processes can help your warehouse achieve operational excellence. However, using a series of expedient, out-of-the-box systems means that your warehouse will be forced to devise unwieldy workarounds to even use the systems.
Fix: Take a holistic approach to new technology—find a system that can meet, or be professionally customized to meet, all of your warehouse’s unique operations. Integration capabilities are a must. If you are looking at a warehouse management system (WMS), seek a robust WMS that interfaces with your other business systems, like your ERP and manifesting systems, carousels, conveyors, and trucks.
3. You don’t have insight into performance
Until a customer complains, you really don’t have any idea what happens on the warehouse floor. You see people picking and packing stuff, and you see packing slips lying around. So business is continuing as usual, right?
But you don’t know who your best warehouse employees are, or how many lines you shipped last week. Of course, if you don’t know who the best workers are or when your warehouse is performing at peak efficiency, how can you set new goals?
Fix: When you find a warehouse management system that you like, find out what kind of metrics you are offered. Can you tell who picked the most lines yesterday? Can you figure out which of your shifts receives goods the fastest? Do you have insight into who is the most accurate picker? And can you get this information in real-time, in an easy-to-read format?
4. You don’t set performance goals
Try to help the warehouse team to work smarter instead of harder. Provide the warehouse with attainable goals, send people to warehouse workshops, and keep up on the latest trends in modern warehousing. Equip your people with the needed software and material handling equipment to do the jobs productively and efficiently.
Fix: Performance metrics give you the ability to not just measure the status quo, but to change the name of the game by setting and meeting new goals in the warehouse.
5. You don’t think of warehousing as a profession
Warehousing isn’t traditionally considered a professional discipline. Your warehouse manager can’t simply be in the position because of tenure. You need to choose the person who has the knowledge and capability needed to run today’s fast-paced and customer-driven warehouse. Beyond longevity, your manager needs to be adaptable, technology-friendly, and willing to learn the new skills that are needed to create a state-of-the art logistics powerhouse. Your warehouse manager or managers needs to be ready to undertake training and classes to help drive your work force to new levels of efficiency. Sometimes this means you can hire from within the ranks, and sometimes it means that you need to look for new blood.
Fix: Rethink your idea of a warehouse manager and recognize that while it’s a dirty job, it’s not JUST a job. It’s a career, and it’s a profession, and it should be respected as such.
6. You keep the warehouse apart
Sure, you pay attention to sales forecasts and marketing initiatives, but what happens in the warehouse is generally taken for granted until disaster strikes. Since no one knows exactly what went wrong with a customer order, there tends to be a lot of finger pointing, which leads to more confusion and de-motivation within the warehouse.
Fix: It is crucial to include the warehouse leadership in business decisions. This will help make warehouse functions transparent and accountable, improve warehouse results and predictability as well as profitability.
7. You only promote from within
When you need someone to fill a manager’s role, you pick the next person in line. Rather than bringing in new hires, you are afraid that only those who have been there for a long time can possibly understand the way your business works.
This problem persists across all levels of the warehouse. If it takes 6 months for a new employee to really understand the layout of your warehouse, then losing that employee is a real blow to your business operations. This means that you have to hold on to workers that may not be your best, simply because it’s slightly better than hiring and training a new worker.
Fix: A capability should not disappear when one or two employees find other jobs outside your warehouse. If your best person in receiving leaves, the impact should be minimal. This is part of building a robust business in general, and it applies to your warehouse as much as it does your leadership team. An automated WMS can help you create a warehouse that is easily learned and simply managed.
8. You don’t pay your people enough
“We just can’t find good people anymore. We don’t understand. We pay the minimum wage and they should be happy to have the job.”
That kind of thinking might work in a recession, but as the economy picks up, so do your employees’ job options. Paying above minimum wage will net you workers with more skills and a greater desire to stay put and work toward even better positions within the warehouse—or beyond the warehouse.
Some of today’s most successful business owners started in Receiving, so don’t discount warehouse employees’ skills and product knowledge.
Fix: Pay more than the going rate, and you’ll find employees who want to work for you and keep working for you. Look for the potential in employees at all levels to climb the corporate ladder. The people who stock your shelves might understand your products better than the people who sell them, so be cognizant of work talent in every department within your organization.
PathGuide offers warehouse assessment surveys as a first step in its customer evaluation program for its Latitude WMS. For more information, or to discuss having a warehouse assessment conducted by a PathGuide expert, please contact us here or by calling at 888-627-9797.