The economy is forcing everyone to tighten up operations. Efficiency is today’s business byword. In a timely article posted on Supply Demand Chain, TriFactor systems engineer Greg Tuohy offered provocative tips to ramp up warehouse efficiency by improving material handling processes in distribution centers.
- Know where you’re at. Before you can decide where to make improvements, you have to know where you are, says Tuohy. Review operational data and break it down so you can see where your money goes and relationships between processes. Start with the big picture, but break it down to figure the cost of each element in the process. This will show you where you’re getting the best value for your dollar and where you need to tighten up your operation.
- Define customer service. Tuohy recommends defining your commitment to customers as narrowly as possible to allow more accurate measurement of success or failure. Defining what constitutes achievement of a perfect order, including labeling, delivery time, damage and documentation, also defines employee goals and customer expectations. Aim for realistic and achievable results that will give you a competitive edge.
- Touch it once. Each time an item is touched invites human error. Track the number of times an item is touched from the time the order is received until it ships out of your facility. Work to eliminate as many steps in the process as possible.
- Look up. When you need to expand operations, expand upward into unused overhead space instead of laterally. Elevating operations makes more efficient use of available space, allowing you to extend the useful life of your facility.
- Map SKUs. Gather data on SKUs in inventory, says Tuohy. Carefully map each SKU for shape, weight and velocity of use. Knowing how fast items move from demand to use allows you to slot your facility for maximum efficiency. “The data also allow you to take advantage of the cubing features of most warehouse management systems in order to calculate the appropriate-sized carton to use for a respective order,” says Tuohy, thus reducing carton and packing filler expenses.
Next time: More ways to ramp up warehouse efficiency