To say there is any one single way in which to manage a warehouse would be folly—much depends on the nature of the supply chain and of the warehouse itself. However, there are certain common principles that can and should be applied. Conversely, of course, this also means there are a number of ways in which companies can get it wrong.
To help you keep on top of your warehouse management and ensure your storage facilities don’t generate undue supply chain costs, take note of the following eight common warehousing mistakes. If you can identify signs that any of these issues exist, prioritise them for remedial action.
If on the other hand, your warehouse is already free of these problems, it’s a good idea to take note of them anyway and to remain vigilant. Sometimes things can slip, especially during busy times.
#1: Holding Excess Inventory
Despite years of knowledge dissemination in the warehousing field, encouraging lean practice and inventory reduction, storing too much inventory is still one of the most common warehousing mistakes made by supply chain organizations worldwide.
Wholesalers in particular, seem to find it easy to fall into this trap, often as a result of making huge purchases of a single product to take advantage of bulk quantity discounts.
Reducing inventory levels as far as possible makes your supply chain leaner and leaves you with less money tied up in stock. So when those “too good to turn down” discounts come along, it’s worth trying to arrange with suppliers to get the large orders delivered in smaller batches, as and when you need them.
#2: Failing to Optimize Picking Paths
Another of the most common warehousing mistakes–overlooking the need to plan efficient picking paths through your warehouse–will handicap your picking rate. This in turn can impact supply chain cycle times, and generate excessive labor costs because of suboptimal productivity.
Ideally, your warehouse operatives should be able to complete each picking run at a location close to the dispatch area in your warehouse. It’s not always easy to create optimal picking routes, but it is certainly worth taking the time and effort to ensure they are as efficient as possible.
#3: Clinging on to Paper Processes
Failing to utilize technology and holding doggedly onto inefficient, paper-based workflows is a warehousing mistake common to many smaller organizations.
While you might think your small logistics or warehousing operation is better off keeping things simple, paperwork actually has the opposite effect: bogging down your processes and leaving you liable to delays resulting from lost or misplaced documents. You will actually generate more efficiency by switching to digital information storage and transmission.
This doesn’t mean you have to invest in an expensive and over-complicated warehouse management system though.
There are plenty of simple, yet effective workflow software applications to be had, all of which will serve you better today than a trail of paper documents. By eliminating your paper-based processes, you’ll save money on consumables and help the environment too.
#4: Lack of Attention to Housekeeping
Messy loading docks, aisles littered with shrink-wrap, overfilled pallets. These are all symptoms of a warehouse that doesn’t get enough love.
Apart from the safety implications, a warehouse without good housekeeping is a warehouse without efficiency. The mess obstructs the flow of people and goods through the facility, reducing productivity.
To eliminate the build-up of mess and clutter, enforce a strict regime of housekeeping, with a certain amount of time given over to cleaning and tidying at the end of each shift. This is the best time to get the warehouse space tidied, as it enables the next shift to begin productive work without being delayed by clean-up activity.
#5: Inadequate Health and Safety Management
Even a tidy warehouse isn’t necessarily a safe warehouse. Good health and safety management in a warehouse is about looking for the hidden hazards as well as the obvious ones. Yet, all too often, health and safety gets overlooked in busy warehousing operations. The problem is, as long as employees aren’t having accidents, it’s easy to get lulled into a false sense of safety.
This is a common and often regrettable mistake in warehousing, because when somebody does fall victim to an accident, the consequences can be lethal.
Warehouses are inherently dangerous working environments, so getting into the habit of reporting accidents and near misses, analyzing the causes and acting to eliminate them, can certainly save costs and quite possibly, save an employee or two from serious injury as well.
#6: Neglecting Goods-in Processes
When the pressure is on to get customer orders moving through the warehouse and dispatched on time, the inbound side of the operation can sometimes suffer from a lack of attention. Actually though, the role of goods-in receiving is critical to effective warehousing and hence, should not be left neglected.
In order to ensure your goods-in processes are efficiently maintained, utilise dedicated staff and compensate them well for their efforts.
Intake procedures can be quite specialized, so this is not an area in which to assign staff randomly. Make sure though, that you do have some other warehouse operatives trained in goods receiving, just in case you need back-ups to cover staff sickness or holidays.
#7: Ignoring Staff Development
Tight budgets sometimes mean training and development activities don’t receive the priority that they deserve. Your employees though, are your most important asset. If you neglect to identify development needs and provide opportunities for individual growth, higher staff turnover is the most likely outcome.
It costs far less to keep existing employees motivated and engaged, than it does to backfill vacated positions. So remember to devote some time and resources to staff training and development, even if it means hiring temporary staff on occasion, to cover your permanent employees during training.
#8: Failing to Measure the Right Things
Most companies today, measure warehouse performance to some degree, but it hasn’t always been so, and despite increased awareness of the need for meaningful key performance indicators, plenty of organisations fail to measure their warehouse operations correctly.
If you can avoid making this mistake in your warehouse operation, it will help a great deal in steering clear of some of the others. For example, let’s briefly revisit mistake #6…
Utilising staff with the right skills will certainly help you get things right in goods receiving, but without applying some measurements, it’s easy to overlook inefficient processes.
As mentioned, goods receiving can sometimes end up as a bit of a backwater, but with the right KPIs in place, performance here will remain front and center along with those processes that typically receive more attention, like picking and dispatch.
Some common-sense metrics to apply at goods receiving include “truck time at the unloading dock” and “time from receiving to putaway.” Together these two KPIs will help you spot ways to optimise receiving processes and reduce the time taken to move inventory out of limbo.
Eight Steps to a More Effective Warehouse Operation
As you may have noticed from the eight common warehousing mistakes listed above, there are a number of elements to managing an operation effectively. Close attention must be paid to people, processes, and the warehouse environment itself. If you can avoid or prevent the eight listed mistakes, you should have a sound foundation on which to build continuous improvement efforts, without spending too much time fighting fires.
Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in April 2015 under the title “7 Common Warehousing Mistakes and How to Avoid Them”. It has now been updated with the addition of some deeper content.
I learn a great deal from your posts.
My warmest regards to you.
i need to learn more about a logistics,and Warehouse Managements as wel as posible. for e.g Metic tons calucation and all Warehouse managements
Why not join us for the webinar on 27 May? It’s all about Warehousing and it’s free.
Here’s the registration link
See you there!
I want to learn more about warehouse
Good, you’ll find plenty here. And also check out.
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your teachings are very useful and i want to learn more about logistics and supply chain/ warehousing.i will join soon
I’m glad you find the blog useful…
Number 5 is a big one. You can get totally shut down if you make that mistake. http://flwarehousing.com/
That one will certainly get you into big trouble………..
Logistics at its finest.
Very useful and easy to apply in actual warehouse operation. Great learnings for me. Thank you and more power to you and your team.
Just need to I have a logistic company what controls can i formulate to ensure that goods received by dispatch from warehouse when delivering them to customers are the correct goods.because we always find out that there is an incorrect item.
Hi, I would suggest you add in checking stations to check all orders as they arrive at dispatch.
Monitor how many orders are incorrect and who assembled the orders.
Then you will know if it is a process problem or a people problem.
Next step is to identify why the errors are occurring and make process changes to avoid these errors.
I don’t think I implied that there was only one way 😉
Hi,I am a supervisor in a dispatch department my problem is having a team that does mistakes everyday sending wrong items to customers and sometimes sending more than what is needed.When they are new everything is 100% but when they understand the job then mistakes happen and I even get rid of the wrong person and bring in a new person but the same problem will occur.
Maybe rotate the staff, and also add in some KPIs that they need to meet for a reward. Something simple like movie tickets.
Or a team reward.
This is a must read! Thank you for sharing the common warehousing mistakes and most importantly how we could avoid them in operations.
Thank you for sharing its give me more knowledge how we avoid those mistake.
Glad you found it helpful.
how to avoid missing items? actually i am auditor in small company but some of our store are encountered always missing items that’s why im concerning how to avoid that kind of activities i mean missing items.
hi , i am working in clothing company as H&S and QA supervisor and i found your website very helpful .
hi , thank you so much for sharing your knowledge with us .
Good day, just asking.
My warehouse still use printed paper for for all such as receiving, replenish,picking and so on. I am in charged of picking. The replenishment usually unable to keep with order quantity so sometimes in the system pick phase will have 100ea but the item actually are not yet bring down. They do this because they want to release the picking order fast.
Here is my problem, sometimes order unable to be completed due due to empty bin,wrong batch, and short quantity. When my inform to my manager some of the order are unable to be completed in time due to above mentioned problem, he/she will ask me where is the item/why short? i get so confused since I also don’t understand how problem arise on quantity mainly due to nature of warehouse operation. Doing cycle count also no use since i keep seeing repeated problem.
I also cannot pointed to inventory error in replenishment since my manager so confident the inventory are perfect. To him/ her, only picker contributed to the errors and MIA. I no longer interested to argue with him/her because he/she like to blame pickers ..
So may i know how to handle this better ? especially in warehouse that are still use paper for everything..THANKS
Hi, this requires a much longer answer than I can provide here on a Blog.
But I would focus first on Inventory Record Accuracy, as without that, you cannot hope to have accurate picking.
I would then start to focus on and improve each key warehouse process, putting in a suitable KPI.
Start with receipt and putaway, as this has a direct impact on inventory accuracy and stock availability.
Inventory record accuracy?…well my picking team will do cycle count on weekly basis..but because since picking and replenishment are running at the same time, it is a hassle to do re-alignment…
i want to focus on picking accuracy and reduce mia, but if i only keep certain picker to certain location then picking production will not meet our target hence lead to order delay.
On the other hand, if i let them loose..there will no delay in order but it will lead to mia in bin..already see it happening..
anway thanks in advance for replying.
Are you operating with a warehouse management system (WS)?
We use SAP WMS if that is what you are asking and no RF scanner for picking.