Imports enjoyed a year-over-year increase in May 2015. According to Supply Chain Management Review, a recent report indicated that the number of products coming in to the U.S. is on the rise. Waterborne shipments to the U.S. were up 7 percent over April, which brought the total to a 3 percent increase for 2015. More shipments leads, among other things, to the need for stronger warehouse management practices. More products could mean more confusion. Here are four tips for companies that need to streamline business processes due to increased U.S. trade.
- Use Space Efficiently
An increased need for warehouse efficiency is one result of a higher influx of products. After all, more imports means more individual items, and even new kinds of products, to keep track of as they move through the supply chain. Therefore, warehouse managers need to take steps to ensure the distribution center is working as smoothly as possible - and that includes making sure space utilization makes sense. The Guardian contributor Matt Grierson, the managing director at commercial storage provider Dexion, remarked on how floor space can be better utilized when companies take advantage of shelving.
"There are a lot of shelving options," he said. "Two-tier or mezzanine, fixed or mobile. If you can squeeze your rows of shelving together, and only open them up when access is required, you can save 50 percent of your floor space."
- Optimize Warehouse Organization
Grierson also stressed that product placement is key to a speedy picking operation. An organized warehouse is better able to put products away, fulfill orders and cut down the time required to move items through the supply chain. Valuable productivity could be lost if the most popular products aren't easy to get to during picking. The solution is to have the most-processed items near the picking area and pushed to the front of bins.
"If your pickers are regularly traveling the length of the warehouse to get to your biggest sellers, you're wasting time compared to keeping everything nearby," Grierson said.
- Make Sure Records Are Up To Date
A greater number of imports could cause confusion in the warehouse, so it becomes more crucial than ever to maintain good inventory records. An efficient warehouse is one that keeps careful track of products and moves items quickly onto the next step in the supply chain. Mobile data collection tools can increase the accuracy of inventory records and therefore help to eradicate future issues.
- Invest in Tech Tools
Warehouse management systems and enterprise resource planning software are essential tools for companies to use if they don't want to lose products in the supply chain or run out of room in the warehouse. Product visualization is key when managing a warehouse, especially when there are more items than usual, as evidenced by the current situation with U.S. exports. Warehouse automation software can be essential for companies to see where products are in the supply chain and plan allocation of resources like time and money toward the optimization of the warehouse.
- Utilize Mobile Data Collection
Hands-free voice picking solutions allow workers to maximize their use of time spent on the floor of the warehouse and maintain safety standards, as well. According to an RFgen white paper titled "Using Voice-Directed Work in the Supply Chain: What IT Executives Need to Know," voice picking is becoming a key ingredient in IT strategy due to its immense benefits. Voice technology can help to alleviate some of the stress of multitasking in the warehouse, which could lead to increased accuracy in other areas.