On its surface, the warehouse shipping process is simple. The customer places an order, the warehouse management system (WMS) generates a pick order, and a warehouseman follows the pick order, pulls the items needed from inventory, and brings them all to packing. The packing department boxes everything up, palletizes the load, and it all ships out on the next available truck. In reality, however, even a well-run warehouse is prone to delays. Receiving may put incoming products into whatever slots are most convenient, data may be entered into the WMS incorrectly, or warehouse workers may spend their time working to overcome errors rather than steadily performing their appointed tasks.
If you’re wondering how to improve the warehouse shipping process, you’re not alone. Smart logistics specialists ask themselves this constantly. Improving shipping processes is an ongoing effort. It entails constantly looking for slight improvements that will save time, reduce the cost of each operation in the supply chain, and generate savings that add up over time. While there is no one-size-fits-all solution for every warehouse in the supply chain, we have a few tips that will serve logistics managers well as they seek to improve their warehouse shipping process.
5 Tips on How to Improve the Warehouse Shipping Process
1. Label and Track to Increase Transparency
The biggest challenge in the warehouse—and in the supply chain in general—is keeping track of all the products being moved through it. Proper labeling of products, containers, and cartons is important. It causes a significant delay if a warehouse picker must go off of his or her picking route midway through the order. Having to open boxes in order to find out what is in them reduces efficiency even further.
While proper, basic labeling is one way to speed things up, technology is now available that can make labels machine-readable and recordable. GS1 has provided the business standards for machine-readable labeling since the first barcodes were introduced in the 1970s. These same barcodes make it possible to record product movement through the supply chain, and Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) tracking can also be used to record GS1 standard identifiers without the laborious manual scanning of barcodes. When proper labeling and tracking is implemented, products can be easily found within the warehouse even if they’ve been moved out of their normal locations.
2. Understand Your Total Cost of Business
Together with a supply chain management software system, machine-readable tracking makes collecting and comparing supply chain data easy. This allows your business to determine if there are areas within the warehouse that are performing below expectations and creating bottlenecks in intake or order fulfillment. Taking measures to mitigate these issues can then improve productivity and cost-effectiveness.
Keeping up with changing technology is vital.
Accurate data tracking and collation will also allow you to compare the cost-effectiveness of different solutions. Technology is always improving, and, as a consequence, so are shipping processes. Keeping up with changing technology is vital. Data comparisons can provide important evidence that a particular method of improving the warehouse shipping process is worth the investment.
3. Organize to Improve Efficiency
Basic warehouse organization, including keeping the warehouse clean and clutter-free, helps prevent interruptions in the warehouse shipping process. Minor reorganizations of inventory, such as putting frequently accessed items in the most accessible locations, can also result in a serious productivity boost. However, measurable improvements in warehouse efficiency may require a large-scale reorganization.
One way to do this is by increasing the number of products that can be handled within the same facility by implementing deep lane storage. Installing the pallet racking needed for a deep lane storage system is a major disruption in the warehouse that will limit operations, yet in today’s omnichannel supply chain system, a serious reorganization may be the best way to substantially improve the speed and accuracy of order fulfillment.
4. Implement Automation to Improve Reliability
One of the biggest speed bumps in the warehouse shipping process is human error. When products arrive, workers rush to put them away, and as any operations manager knows, products don’t always end up in the right places. Warehouse automation can solve this issue by providing reliable, consistent results.
Automated Storage and Retrieval Systems (ASRS), AGVs, pallet shuttles, and palletizers can all bring greater reliability and predictability to the warehouse shipping process.
Consider automated case picking as an example. Errors have an outsize impact on the processes of picking and palletizing. Shipping the wrong item by mistake involves a lengthy return process and a special rush shipment in order to get the correct item to the customer. Both processes result in additional costs, and as a result, reducing these incidents can pay off. Automated Storage and Retrieval Systems (ASRS), AGVs, pallet shuttles, and palletizers can all bring greater reliability and predictability to the warehouse shipping process.
5. Improve Equipment to Reduce Overhead
Perhaps you’ve noticed that many of the previous tips come down to improving reliability and predictability. One more way to do this is by upgrading the equipment used in the warehouse to ensure that order fulfillment is completed without errors or delays.
Warehouse lighting is one area often in need of an upgrade. Poor lighting is often a factor in workplace accidents and proper lighting has even been shown to increase worker productivity. Pallets are another constant in most warehouses that are seldom looked at for improvement, yet switching to higher-quality pallets can make a big difference in how smoothly and efficiently your warehouse runs. Small details like an angled entry-way for forks can make it easier and faster to move pallets and can prevent forklift damage. A pallet deck that supports the load evenly across the whole pallet surface helps prevent product damage and thus interruptions in your warehouse shipping process. These types of small upgrades to equipment can result in substantial improvements in efficiency and your Total Cost of Business (TCOB).
How to Improve the Warehouse Shipping Process with Pallets
It may seem as though there is no single change that can dramatically improve the warehouse shipping process, just multiple small adjustments that improve efficiency over time. This is largely true. However, one change is both simple to make and can begin to contributing to small improvements almost immediately.
High-quality plastic pallets come equipped with GS1 standard barcodes and RFID tracking chips that enable data capture and transparency for properly equipped supply chains.
Switching to plastic pallets is an equipment upgrade that will improve your warehouse’s operations through greater safety, reliability, and durability. Plastic pallets are lighter than wood pallets, making them safer and easier for your employees and their heavy equipment to handle. They’re also more durable than wood pallets, which helps keep the warehouse clean from nails, screws, and wood debris, and they have angled fork openings to help guide the forks all the way through the pallet, preventing interruptions due to improper lifts and accidents. High-quality plastic pallets come equipped with GS1 standard barcodes and RFID tracking chips that enable data capture and transparency for properly equipped supply chains without requiring a restructuring of labeling practices first. Switching to plastic pallets is a single change that improves the warehouse shipping process in multiple ways that immediately begin paying off for your business.
The iGPS pallet pool rents a robust GMA spec plastic pallet with ergonomic features, GS1-compliant barcodes, and RFID tracking. Give our team a call at 1-800-884-0225, email a specialist at [email protected], or visit our contact page to find out how to improve the warehouse shipping process for your company.