A warehouse is a large open space used to store products and goods until they are needed. In a manufacturing facility, a warehouse holds raw materials used in the production process. In retail operations, a warehouse holds backup inventory that is used to replenish shelves as product is purchased. The key to a successful warehouse operation is having an organized system for storing and retrieving.
A well-organized warehouse has all to do with efficiency in the picking process. Set up an 80/20 area within the warehouse. This means the designated area will house 20 percent of the SKUs, or stock-keeping units, that account for 80 percent of picks, meaning the items picked to complete an order. This warehouse within a warehouse should be in an area that is easily accessible and can handle a high volume of daily picks. It should also be located in an area that is close to the order processing desk or shipping dock. This will increase productivity as it cuts down on travel time for pickers who retrieve the items and those who process the orders.
Safety is a priority issue in a warehouse operation. A few common sense guidelines will help keep workers free from accidents and injuries. Heavy or bulky items should be stored on floor level pallets or lower-level shelves and slots. The rule of thumb is to keep heavy items at or below knee level. Lighter and smaller items are better stored on higher shelves. High-volume items should be slotted in the wheelhouse zone, the area between the waist and shoulder height. This results in a better ergonomic situation for the pickers.
Every aisle, cabinet and drawer needs to be coded so that every item can be easily located by its unique location code. When designing a code system, utilize the KISS principle, Keep It Short and Simple. Aisles can be coded with an A followed by a number, such as A-23. Use the letter C to designate a cabinet, D to designate a drawer and S to designate a shelf or slot.
Tools and Equipment
Although every product in a warehouse may be housed properly and numbered efficiently, the picking process can be slowed by unavailability of equipment or a malfunctioning retrieval system. Create a set of rules for replacement of tools and equipment so that it is readily available for the next picker. Be sure that aisles are kept clutter free. Aisles and storage bins should be clearly marked so that anyone can locate an item quickly. Perform routine maintenance on equipment, including computers and database systems, so the retrieval process is not compromised by equipment going down or functioning slowly.
Cindy Phillips began writing feature articles in 2007 with her work appearing in several regional newspapers. With more than 30 years experience in the corporate arena, her business expertise includes all aspects of marketing and management. Phillips earned a Bachelor of Arts in English education from SUNY New Paltz.