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10 Ideas for More Efficient & Productive Warehouse Operations

What are some ways organizations can streamline operations for improved results overall?

The following is our top 10 list of ways warehouses can drive more efficient and productive warehouse operations:

Consider Automation

Boston Consulting Group research shows 1.2 million robots are expected to be deployed across manufacturing facilities in the U.S. by the year 2025.  Why?  Not only can robotic automation help manufacturers achieve greater warehouse productivity, but it can also drive significant cost savings as compared to employing workers.

Optimize Labor Productivity

Whether through automation, employee incentives, or any other means, optimizing labor productivity should be the cornerstone of any warehouse improvement effort.  Since labor tends to be the largest cost factor in warehousing and order picking operations, it’s critical for organizations to understand production rates.

Maximize Vertical Space

On the production floor, where space can be limited, it’s important to take advantage of every inch of available space (floor to ceiling).  As noted in an Occupational Health & Safety article, solutions such as pallet racking can lead to safer working conditions as well as increased efficiency in the warehouse.  Pallet racking, the most common way of storing pallet loads in the world, is an easy-to-use storage solution; it’s used in the vast majority of warehouses, manufacturing facilities, commercial warehouse operations, and even retail stores.

Create Organized Workstations

The Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) reports that musculoskeletal disorders (carpal tunnel syndrome, tendinitis, muscle strains, lower back injuries, etc.) are one of the leading causes of workplace injuries and illnesses.  To reduce the risk of such injuries in repetitive, manual tasks, it’s important to design workstations according to the specific task and worker (for example, ensuring work surface height is the height of the conveyor or roller from floor level).  Doing so increases ergonomic benefits and drives greater efficiency and productivity in everyday work.

Analyze Picking Methodology

As with ergonomic considerations (i.e., designing the workstation to suit the particular work being done), it’s also important to determine whether the current picking methodology appropriately suits the organization.  Making the right order picking choices directly impacts supply chain productivity, so it’s not something to be taken lightly.

Implement Lean Manufacturing

Most manufacturing facilities are trending toward 5S/lean manufacturing as part of their efforts to improve manufacturing processes, enabling quicker, more efficient production and lowering overall costs.  According to the EPA, “lean production techniques often create a culture of continuous improvement, employee empowerment, and waste minimization [in addition to] driving rapid, continual improvement in cost, quality, service, and delivery.”

Take Advantage of Technology Options

With the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) becoming increasingly pervasive in the manufacturing sector, the challenge then becomes: How can organizations leverage these technological innovations to stay one step ahead of the competition?  Accenture predicts the value created by the IIoT could reach as high as $15 trillion by 2030, paving the way for more efficient, productive, and intelligent industrial warehouse operations.

Faster Part & Tool Retrieval

Faster part and tool retrieval is a key component of achieving greater organization and efficiency in the fulfillment process.  Automated storage and retrieval systems can, for example, increase picking accuracy while yielding better inventory control.  Additional benefits to these types of systems include better operator safety, increased labor productivity, and improved floor space utilization.

Evaluate Storage Equipment

One of the most important parts of evaluating industrial storage equipment is factoring in how storage systems can/will evolve with a facility’s needs over time.  Performing a thorough assessment of current and future warehouse storage needs can improve storage density and picker productivity and drive significant cost savings over the long term.

Focus on Continuous Process Improvement

When all is said and done, perhaps the best way to drive productivity and efficiency in the warehouse is to keep an eye on continuous process improvement.  Successful manufacturers don’t just focus on short-term goals; they set objectives and accountability for improvement, review their progress, and start over – time and time again.

Final Thoughts

Any warehouse with an eye toward process improvement should be evaluating existing warehouse operations and looking for ways to drive increased efficiency – constantly.  The above list represents our top 10 places to start. 

– Manufacturing Robotics Warehouse // Jennie Dannecker