Productivity is a huge issue for modern businesses. If productivity is poor, it has a direct effect on profits. The last thing any business wants is for staff to spend their time playing games, reading the newspaper, and checking social media instead of picking and packing orders. With many modern warehouses vast, there is a lot of ground to cover. This can make it hard to ensure staff remain productive and efficient. Technology is vital, but staffing your warehouse with robots may not be the answer.
Today’s warehouses and distribution centres are often gigantic behemoths stretching over several square kilometers. Amazon is a good example of a global distributor, but surprisingly, Amazon warehouses are not the largest, although the Dunfermline distribution center in Scotland measures an impressive one million square feet. In case you are wondering, the Boeing warehouse in Washington is a huge 4.3 million square feet – which is large enough hold 80 separate football games and still have room for the fans to watch.
Employees are your biggest asset. If the people who work for you don’t feel appreciated or valued, they are not going to give it their all when working on the clock. Working with such a large physical space requires an ingrained culture of safety and efficiency. Aisles should be wide enough for plant to move up and down safely. Shelving should be secure whilst maximizing vertical space. There should be ample lighting, particularly if your warehouse is operational 24/7, with high bay light fixtures where applicable. Fire safety is also important, and if your staff are expected to use plant and machinery, everyone must be trained appropriately.
If you have no way of tracking your warehouse productivity levels, you are in big trouble. Implement a warehouse management system (WMS) and work out what your key metrics are. These will vary but think about how best to measure productivity. For example, how many parcels are shipped within 24-hours of the order being made? Motivate employees by measuring their pick and packing time. Let them know when they are on target or when they need to take it up a notch. You could even introduce productivity rewards for individuals or teams.
Lean culture is the future. Adopt lean techniques, such as Lean Six Sigma, that reply on team collaboration to remove waste and reduce variation. You will find that implementing such methods improves performance in no time at all.
Your staff work in the warehouse, so they are the best people to ask when you need ideas for improving productivity. Engage with employees and ask their advice. These people are experts at what they do, so they probably have some great ideas. Have a monthly team meeting and solicit feedback on areas that need improving. Your employees will feel valued and motivated and your business benefits. It’s a win-win situation.
Warehouses need to flow, i.e. everything needs to be in the right place at the right time. If you crack this, the rest should fall into place.