Peak season in fulfillment is rough!
Client and consumer expectations are high, volumes are up, SLA’s are tight, and good labor can be hard to find. Peak season can be challenging in third-party logistics if you don’t have a streamlined way to handle the chaos.
Group of distribution warehouse workers inspecting packages on a conveyor belt.
Whether you want to avoid the mistakes of last year or you’re bustling from e-Commerce growth, there is no better time to review your current warehouse processes and make changes.
Our warehouse management customers were successful during their busiest times with operational efficiencies gained using optimization strategies and intelligent automation (business rules).
By optimizing your warehouse, you’ll strategically handle all of the challenges peak season brings head on. Optimization isn’t just key to conquering peak season but will also set your team up for long-term success.
Warehouse Management 101:
Wondering where to start in your fulfillment center? Focus on your goal – creating cost and time–saving efficiencies. When strategizing ways to optimize your warehouse processes and get the most out of your warehouse management system, focus on these three critical success factors:
Think about what you could be doing faster, more efficiently or cheaper. Ask your warehouse manager, are there ways to cut steps, costs or time?
Here are seven proven ways you can run an efficient operation and raise customer satisfaction in your fulfillment center:
Don’t make the mistake of overlooking your warehouse layout. For a third-party logistics company, every inch of warehouse space matters, as space can be limited or decided by potential ROI. Re-evaluating your warehouse layout can ensure you’re maximizing the power of your warehouse. A well thought out warehouse layout can greatly reduce travel time. By defining a logical walk sequence for picking and put-aways, your team can increase productivity and work more efficiently.
You can also focus on warehouse layout in the following areas:
We mentioned Intelligent automation (also known as business rules) in our intro, it’s a powerful tool to help automate manual processes with a warehouse management system like VeraCore. Once you’ve established business rules in your warehouse you can begin to optimize processes.
One method we recommend is to group orders that involve similar steps. Grouping batches of work that have the same workflow can make it easier for your team to handle orders. Your team will complete the picking process and pack steps more quickly, which means more orders out the door faster.
Examples of Intelligent Automation:
Ultimately, organizing your work in a more efficient manner will help you streamline processes and increase productivity all around.
Use barcodes for more speed and accuracy. If you’re looking to stay on top of high volumes, implementing barcode technology can be a game-changer in your warehouse. Barcodes are not as difficult as you would think. And the benefits greatly outweigh the effort upfront.
Barcodes allow you to dramatically speed up warehouse transactions, replacing manual data entry with a quick scan of a barcode. When coupled with the right warehouse management software, barcode technology can provide greater quality control over your warehouse operations (helping your inventory management efforts), reduced costs and many more efficiencies.
If you’re seeing your team struggle by retracing steps or manually typing up long barcodes, it’s time for a change. By implementing barcodes, managers can capture data in real-time and oversee activities with more speed and accuracy.
Barcodes can be used to perform a multitude of wireless warehouse transactions in:
Picking is a central step of the order fulfillment process. Keeping up with a high volume of orders – especially orders with expedited or same day shipping – while maintaining accuracy, can be one of your biggest headaches. While there are many picking strategies (ex.zone, wave, discrete), cluster picking is one of the most efficient methods for reducing travel time and increasing picking rates during peak season. Cluster picking (essentially batch picking) allows you to batch pick multiple orders in a single pass through the warehouse, eliminating retraced steps.
An efficient pack out process can provide your operation with a high level of quality control, content tracking and audit trails.
Let’s take a closer look at all three.
You can’t pick and pack efficiently (like we mentioned above!) if your inventory is a mess. Poorly managed inventory can start a domino effect in your operation. Inventory discrepancies cause backorders, which can negatively affect client relationships and cut into your bottom line. If you’re still using spreadsheets or manual methods to manage inventory, the process can be even more tedious and error-prone.
To keep up during peak season, you’ll need a solid inventory management plan so you can accurately manage and track inventory. The inventory you house needs to be accurate, always accounted for and visible to customers.
Benefits of inventory management:
As order volumes go up, so do returns. If your customers are dealing with frequent returns, it’s important that your team reviews its preparedness to handle the influx. Your team’s focus is on getting orders out the door, and you don’t want to lose time on orders/returns coming back in.
The returns process should be as frictionless as possible to help you save on labor and protect profitability. Make sure areas where returns are handled are clearly marked in your warehouse. When your team is handling returns, they can segregate items into return locations based on status such as:
Use transition locations to move inventory to stock locations or elsewhere, such as Recycle or Disposal.
Warehouse workers can save time with a clear returns process and by scanning barcodes to record items throughout the return process. Train your team members on your returns process so they know exactly how to handle returns. A clearly defined returns process can eliminate confusion and the need for verbal instructions on returns.