DCwise Insights - How to improve your warehouse operations? 6 practical ideas
Updated: Jan 25
When running your warehouse there is often a constant push towards improving. In this post DCwise.eu gives some guidelines & pointers on where to look for solutions.
In what follows we share 6 concepts that are practically feasible and thus can be used to drive improvement.
👉 Make everything visible!
The more visible the more clear for all; whether its for the operator or the process-manager... all will benefit and better perform. This "visibility" relates to what needs to be done, to what the current situation is, ...
E.g. you have a transport solution that requires to ship in blue boxes. Using the "KISSS" principle a brainstorm can lead you to appoint a fix loading bay&/door & hang a "blue box" above the flow or even paint the door blue. This will message to all that all boxes loaded should be blue.
- Following article goes into more depth on the visualization and gives more practical ideas on how to approach this topic.
👉 Set up the right set of measurements!
As warehousing is complex measuring is essential. So setting up the right measurements to drive ideally a "cockpit view" on the operations should be one of your goals. This view should enable you to get in "one view" an idea on the situation, and drive you take the right actions.
- A good test for your selected set of measurements is to validate if they drive you to take actions. Note that data that can not be converted into information and in the end action has no added value. If never an action comes from a measurement then refinement might be in order.
- Challenge is also to the have the right number of measurements. Too few will not allow you to see the entire picture. Too many will drive confusion. One idea here to move forward is to work with high level measurements vs low level measurements; where the low level elements are only consulted when triggered by a high level "abnormality".
- But important is not to make the (needed) actions dependent of the measurements only. Many things can't be measured or the measurement might not be in place yet. Make sure this doesn't stop the momentum. There is nothing wrong with logical decision made from the gut...
👉 Make sure to have a plan of attack!
You can have KPI's, overviews, etc. But in the end you need a "game plan". This on different levels: the general level - the "operational model" -, the daily level often called "shift plan" -, and so on.
- Take a white-board, excel file, etc and write down what the plan is. -> 5 FTE's on picking, 4 on loading, etc. This needs to be clear and needs to be shared with all concerned. While then its "available" for learning purposes & improvement.
- But as reality often differs from expectations you need to be able to adapt to the situation. In this make sure to discuss different scenario's and give ideas to the team on how to respond best. Like: when falling behind, who you can move from another task, what elements have priority, etc. In this leverage again the tools (whiteboard, excel, etc).
- In this the "game-plan" needs to be easily made from the "set of measurements. If not then these need to be aligned.
👉 Important is to find a fitting communication strategy!
Shift starts and shift hand-overs, Gamba-walks, etc all have their meaningfulness. Find the method that works for your organization and make sure to do this investment in time. The more complex the operation the harder the communication might become. The smaller the more the communication can be overlooked. So try not to step into these pitfalls and find the right balanced communication that fits your operation. So make sure your communication strategy is adapted to the challenges.
- Create a (shift) report where the plan, actual run and issues met during the day are all combined driving that the next shift, management, support, etc. Such all involced / affected are immediately up to speed with what happened and can leverage this within their responsibilities. E.g. customer service coming in into the morning can immediately give feed-back why an order wasn't shipped informing the customer and allowing proper action.
👉 Make sure to dip into the power of your entire team!
They are living the processes every day and are you numerous additional eyes, give ideas, ... Empowered in the right way they will boost the operation extremely. Challenge here is getting "initiation", "capturing", and "execution" up and running. And once running key off-course is maintaining the motivation of the team.
- Focus as of the start on the elements that can be changed by the team.
- In this having only small budgets can already do wonders... ideally when setting up such an initiative a limited budget is allocated along side a the disposal of the users.
6️⃣ Open up
👉 By learning from others
As every good idea is based on one or more other ideas; it doesn't hurt to look outside of the own organization.
As warehousing is an integral part of many companies there is a vast population of organizations also tackling similar challenges. Don't step into the trap that your operation, product, etc is different and therefor there is no need to step outside of your bubble.
Instead open up to learning how others tackle their issues. As every new idea is just a combination of existing concepts... your next best idea can just lie/be triggered by something outside of your own walls. Or you might get validation on your own solutions which is also valuable.
- Schedule visits to other departments/sites/companies
- Go to fairs
- Bring in suppliers requesting their insights
and so one...
☞ You will see that applying these tips drives a more healthy warehouse operation!
Feel free to leave a message with your own tips & experiences towards improving your warehouse operation.