How to Organize the Storage of Apparel Inventory in a Warehouse11 Oct 2016, Posted by BLOG Posts in
A well-organized warehouse can boost your apparel business to new heights. When you know where everything is and how to get to it, you can fulfill orders more quickly and more accurately, pleasing your customers in the process. In fact, you may even save money on labor because your workers will be more efficient when they need to find things, freeing them up to help out with other projects.
Organization is not always easy, though. You need a system that works for your items, not one that’s designed for another industry or that doesn’t take into consideration the special issues facing apparel manufacturers.
Use these tips to get your warehouse ship-shape and improve your customer service in the process.
Institute a Receiving Department
All new merchandise that comes into the warehouse should be going to your receiving department to be logged in. In order to move inventory to stock as quickly as possible, you will want to will ensure the receiving process is simple, intuitive and that customer service is notified in real-time so customers can place orders for the new stock as quickly as possible.
The receiving department will also be in charge of correctly labeling new arrivals as well as acting as quality control. If an item isn’t up to snuff, rejected products should be flagged in your system so the stock isn’t added to your warehouse inventory because that will just cause problems later and lead to disorganization.
With the use of an automated system the receiving department will then direct the warehouse staff to put away the stock to the proper location, with the correct equipment, in the most efficient route and manner.
Use Information Labels
Upon arrival at your warehouse, every single item should be labeled, including these basic details:
What the item is
How many items the package contains
Stock-keeping unit (SKU), if you use this system
Size, if applicable
Your employees looking for items should be able to tell without opening a box whether this is the item needed to fulfill an order. Make the print on the labels large enough for everyone to read. Consider using a computerized system to do this, as not everyone’s handwriting is legible. You don’t want to be working under the assumption that you have 55 of an item when it’s actually 25.
Consider Photo Labels
Warehouses often find it helpful to place images of what’s inside a box on the outside. Employees will spend less time looking for, say, a blue sock when they see the image on the outside of the box rather than having to read every box to see what’s inside.
Map It Out
Every warehouse should have a key that explains what inventory has been stored where. You should keep this information electronically because it’s easy for a paper copy of your layout to get lost, torn or destroyed by an errant cup of coffee.
With an automated system, inventory is tracked from the moment it is received at the dock door, through every step of the warehousing system, until it is directed out the shipping door. This provides real-time access to one of your most important assets, your inventory.
As a rule, most warehouses use vertical stacking for their products. This saves space and can also help you keep better organized, because you can read all the labels at once instead of having to walk down the line of horizontally stacked materials.
You may find you occasionally need to make exceptions to this rule because of the way things are packed or arrive at the warehouse, and that’s fine. However, try to keep the rest of the stacking vertical.
Store Your Product Logically
Say you manufacture sports clothing. If you sell both softball jerseys and pants, it makes sense to store these things together since you’ll probably be fulfilling orders that include both products.
Apply this logic throughout your storage facility. Put like items with other like items instead of using another system, such as storing alphabetically. This will save your warehouse employees unnecessary trips across the floor.
Invest in the Right Shelving
Good shelving doesn’t come cheap, but the last thing you want to do is go with the cheapest, and often least-reliable, option. If you go for cheap, you may find you can’t store enough on your shelves or, worse, the shelves have buckled and caused damage to your merchandise.
Research the best shelving units ahead of time and make sure they’ll fit in your warehouse. You may have to tape out the dimensions of the shelving before buying it just to make sure everything fits. It’s worth the time and effort to do this because it will save you other headaches in the longer run.
Leave Adequate Aisle Space
Yes, you want to squeeze as much inventory into your warehouse as possible. But remember that when you’re moving your products around, you need room to maneuver. If you’ve squeezed the aisles too narrow by placing the shelving too close together, moving merchandise could take minutes instead of seconds.
Keeping the aisles themselves clean and open will also save you time and money. Your workers can trip and damage the inventory they’re transporting when items are left in the middle of an aisle. You may want to assign one person to aisle cleanup to make sure this crucial element is taken care of.
Re-Evaluate Your Options Frequently
Organization doesn’t happen in a vacuum. If you initially try one way of organizing your merchandise but then realize it would be quicker to do it another way, make the change. Just as your apparel business grows and changes, so should your approach to warehouse storage.
Ask your warehouse staff for feedback, which has three great advantages:
They work with the product every day and will have ideas on how to better sort it.
They appreciate their opinions being solicited.
They will be the ones implementing your decisions and can tell you whether or not an idea can work.
No matter the setup you decide to attempt, you’ll need an automation process to keep track of everything. The right software can help you locate products much more quickly than the warehouse foreman’s memory. You also ensure you know exactly how many products you have in stock. This way you can order more stock right away to avoid keeping customers waiting.
If you’re looking for software to help track the storage of your apparel inventory, talk to FDM4. We have helped many companies grow with our solutions to warehouse management, streamlining their storage options and finding the system that works best. Contact us today to learn more about our products for apparel manufacturers and more.
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