Improve Warehouse Satisfaction
Quick Links: Why Improve Warehouse Efficiency? | How To Improve Warehouse Efficiency | Why Improve Warehouse Employee Satisfaction For Efficiency? | How Do You Engage Employees In A Warehouse? | Why Use Warehouse Management Systems? | Contact FDM4 To Improve Your Warehouse’s Efficiency
The warehousing industry represents an enormous portion of industry at large, acting as a critical component in the supply chain of many manufacturing sectors. Industries, including the apparel and consumer products industries, rely on efficient warehouses to get products out to customers as quickly as possible.
However, doing so requires a great deal of communication and organization — the warehouse industry employs hundreds of thousands of people in various positions, from truck drivers and clerks to order fillers and distribution managers, all of whom need to work together efficiently. So how can the warehouse industry improve efficiency? The answer lies in warehouse management systems.
Why Improve Warehouse Efficiency?
It’s easy to assume your company is efficient enough when products are rolling out on time and customer satisfaction polls are high. However, warehouse efficiency is more than ensuring goods get to customers on time — warehouse efficiency is about optimizing productivity to save time and money, and making improvements on a regular basis is essential to staying relevant within the industry.
Some of the primary reasons to improve warehouse efficiency include:
- Increased accuracy: Improved accuracy means fewer mistakes are made throughout the warehouse operational line. Every mistake can mean less efficient storage systems or costly erroneous shipments.
- Maximized speed:Faster warehousing systems mean products can be stored, picked, packed and shipped more quickly. This means shorter turnaround times for customers and faster supply lines for distributors.
- Improved customer satisfaction: By fulfilling orders more quickly and accurately, efficient warehouses can generate happier customers.
- Reduced labor costs: It’s well-known that improving efficiency reduces costs for companies, especially labor costs. Improved productivity means your company is getting more results per employee with fewer hours, reducing the need for overtime pay or excess staff.
More efficient warehouses can generate higher sales while cutting costs. Despite these benefits, many warehousing companies have not made the necessary changes to improve their efficiency. This lack of action is either because they’re unaware of the potential benefits or just don’t know where to start.
How to Improve Warehouse Efficiency
Efficiency should be the goal for any warehouse, regardless of the type or size. Fortunately, many changes and technologies can quickly improve efficiency in warehouse operations. The following are just a few tips to improve warehouse efficiency:
1. Review Your Processes Regularly
You can’t improve what you don’t know. The first step in improving efficiency in your warehouse should involve carefully analyzing your warehouse’s operations closely and gathering analytics about your productivity and effectiveness. This process should also include gathering feedback from employees and managers on the floor who may have insight into ways the system does and doesn’t work based on their experience.
Using the data and feedback gathered, you and your team can identify bottlenecks and other inefficiencies in the chain. From there, you can start devising solutions. This process can be daunting, especially if you find that fixing one problem means changing your entire system. If that’s the case, it’s essential to embrace the change as much as possible. If your current system isn’t working in one area, the entire system doesn’t work and needs to be changed to improve your warehouse as a whole. When all is said and done, your warehouse will be using your resources to their fullest potential.
With constant improvements in technology and the ever-changing flow of business, it’s crucial to complete this review process regularly. Reviews should be conducted every one to three years, but you shouldn’t limit them to a set schedule. If there are any major changes in your business, industry or world technology, this may signal the need for a review.
2. Review Your Warehouse’s Layout and Organization
Good warehouse efficiency starts with a good warehouse layout. Overly narrow paths, intricate shelving patterns and nonsensical organization systems make warehouses more challenging to navigate, leading to workers spending more time searching the floor.
It’s also important to remember that a consistent and sensible organization system is key to the warehouse layout. If an organization system doesn’t make sense or isn’t followed, workers may spend vast amounts of time searching for items. Even if the structural layout of the warehouse is excellent, lack of organization can seriously slow productivity.
Another critical point is to review the hazards on the floor. Any accidents should be addressed immediately, but your team should also review layouts for potential risks, such as damaged shelving, missing parts or poor placement of small items.
Regularly review your warehouse layout to identify potential improvements, and always take note of feedback from staff. In turn, regularly check-in with staff to ensure they are following correct procedures and using the most efficient routes while going through their pick lists.
3. Track Your Products
Product tracking is a staple of the warehousing industry — if you’re not already using it, you need to be. Tracking allows for products to be traced from end to end of the supply chain, from manufacturing and quality control to warehousing and dispatch. This essential technology allows warehousing companies to stay on top of productivity and improve analytics. By tracking items at critical points in the supply chain, you can identify patterns that can be used to improve your processes as a whole.
Tracking can be as simple or as complex as your company needs it to be. Barcodes, scanners and RFID systems are all options for tracking products along the supply chain, as well as more sophisticated automated tracking systems and location tracking technology. Your choice depends on the size of your company and the level of detail you’re looking for in a tracking system.
4. Forecast and Monitor Your Stock
Stocking errors are some of the most significant pain points for wholesale distributors. Overstocking items may result in writing off large quantities of unsold or expired inventory, while under-stocking results in longer turnover and reduced customer satisfaction. Keeping on top of inventory and forecasting for upturns and downturns is an essential part of maximizing efficiency.
Keeping on top of stock involves tracking stock as closely as possible to aid in inventory management. This can be manual tracking or technology-aided tracking, though automated systems can provide more real-time analytics — either way, accurate tracking can help avoid stocking errors.
Forecasting demand can also help prepare you for increased and decreased workloads ahead of time. For example, most warehouses stock up on extra products before Thanksgiving to prepare for the increased demand associated with Christmas shopping. Keeping on top of consumer trends and reacting accordingly can help your business prepare ahead of time for changes in order volume and avoid over-stocking and under-stocking.
5. Focus on Employee Training, Engagement and Satisfaction
Because of the low-margin nature of warehouse work, pay raises aren’t always the best way to improve employee performance. Employee performance is directly affected by the amount of effort you put into them. This means making training, engagement and satisfaction a priority.
Firstly, training is essential to ensure employees are conducting themselves properly and following all procedures and safety protocols. Training should occur on a regular basis, starting right after hiring and repeating annually. Managers should also train employees when new processes and technologies are introduced.
Secondly, it’s important to remember that engaged and satisfied employees are more productive employees. Communication, recognition and good leadership all help improve engagement among employees. You should also consider implementing incentive programs for top producers in your company. Be sure to award employees for other qualities beyond production — some other things to look out for include collaboration, leadership and positivity — just to name a few.
It’s also important to remember to focus on existing employees rather than hiring temporary workers. While temporary workers can help buffer your team during peak periods, they are significantly less productive than full-time employees. Hire temps only when necessary and focus on boosting production with your existing team.
6. Use Technology to Your Advantage
Technology is constantly improving in ways that can significantly help the warehouse industry. Improved tracking technologies and software systems are continually coming out that can improve warehouse productivity and accuracy through the effective use of data. Whether you’re merely using bar codes and scanners or implementing smart glasses and sophisticated software, technology at any level can improve warehouse efficiency significantly.
One example is FDM4’s sophisticated warehouse management system, which helps manage assets, track inventory and effectively order new product. With comprehensive analytics and visibility, you can make use of FDM4’s system to gain greater insights into your warehousing business with an all-in-one software solution.
Why Improve Warehouse Employee Satisfaction for Efficiency?
Despite its prominence in the American job market and various supply chains, the warehouse industry as a whole isn’t engaging its employees as much as it could. A 2014 survey of American laborers polled warehouse employees to see whether they were engaged, which Gallup defines as being “involved in, enthusiastic about, and committed to their work and workplace.”
The poll showed that employees involved in certain aspects of the warehouse industry were less engaged with their work compared to employees at large. Gallup’s poll revealed that 31.4 percent of American workers were engaged in their jobs. Comparatively, only 25.5 percent of transportation workers and 23 percent of manufacturing or production employees claimed to be engaged in their work.
The 2014 numbers may seem low, but they represent an overall improvement over the numbers from 2013. That year, less than 30 percent of all workers in the United States were engaged in their work. Comparatively, 24.1 percent of transportation employees and 22 percent of manufacturing and production workers reported engagement in their work. Numbers are also increasing in recent years, with the American workforce reporting 34 percent engagement in 2018.
Warehouse managers have a great opportunity to further improve the engagement their own employees have with their work. Engagement and satisfaction among employees is a key driver for company efficiency as a whole, with companies reporting 22 percent higher productivity when they have a high level of employee engagement. Additionally, strong employee engagement also results in:
- Reduced turnover: Companies with good employee engagement have significantly lower absenteeism and turnover. In the report cited above, high-turnover industries reported 25 percent lower turnover, while low-turnover industries reported a reduction of 65 percent.
- Improved safety: Disengaged employees are more likely to make mistakes, especially in a physical job in a warehouse. Companies with strong employee engagement reported 48 percent fewer safety incidents compared to their low-scoring counterparts.
- Greater quality of product: Companies with high scores in employee engagement encountered 41 percent fewer quality problems compared to lower-scoring companies. This means that more satisfied employees make for more satisfied customers.
On top of these benefits, engaged employees are healthier, happier and more satisfied with their work. These benefits are a direct result of employees being engaged, as they are more focused on the business, their coworkers and the quality of their own work and are encouraged by success in the workplace.
How Do You Engage Employees in a Warehouse?
While engagement may seem like a nebulous concept, there are several easy and creative ways to engage employees starting now. To engage your warehouse employees, consider these tips:
1. Focus on Purpose
Many managers have heard the story of the janitor at NASA. It goes like this — while visiting the NASA space center in 1962, President John F. Kennedy stopped to talk to a janitor carrying a broom. When the president asked what the janitor was doing, the janitor responded, “Well, Mr. President, I’m helping put a man on the moon.”
While most people would see a janitor cleaning a building, the janitor understood that his job was essential in helping the organization run smoothly, so they could make history. Your business can help your employees do the same. Communicate to employees what the organization does, the benefit it offers customers and how each employee fits into that purpose and benefit. When employees know how their role connects to the overall purpose of the company, they gain greater satisfaction from the work they do.
2. Improve Leadership
Leadership is one of the primary factors in employee engagement and motivation. Good leaders act as role models as well as support for their teams. When employees feel they can trust their leadership for help and support, they feel happier at work. Especially important, however, is having leadership that listens to and trusts employees — when employees feel they can voice questions and concerns without judgment, they feel more invested in the company as a whole.
3. Encourage Collaboration
Fostering a collaborative workplace is another significant factor in creating a satisfied workforce. Workers are happier when they enjoy the company of their coworkers and feel they can work together toward a common goal. To help with this, set aside time for team-building activities, after-work events and other opportunities for creating a work community.
4. Keep Things Positive
Developing a positive work culture is another key to creating a satisfying and engaging workplace. It’s important to note, however, the difference between forced positivity and constructive positivity. A workplace with forced positivity implements a system where feedback and problems are muted for the sake of a “positive workplace.” A workplace with constructive positivity, however, implements a culture of accountability where people address problems in a positive and constructive way.
5. Present Opportunities
Opportunities for advancement are a great incentive for any employee. Many people in the warehousing industry start with entry-level jobs completing pick lists or working on the loading dock. For most, however, that isn’t their end goal. They want to have opportunities to further their education and careers, and workplaces should offer those opportunities to help employees feel valued.
6. Use Analytics Creatively
In employee engagement, analytics may seem like an odd method of improvement. How can analytics increase employee efficiency and satisfaction?
Using analytics is an excellent way to gamify your warehouse. With a WMS or ERP system, you can track performance numbers for each employee in real-time. These numbers are a concrete way of tracking and comparing performance, and assigning value to those numbers can help foster an atmosphere of friendly competition, incentivizing employees to work a little harder. Some examples of how to use analytics to gamify order picking include:
- Implementing an incentive program that rewards the highest performing employees, teams or shifts.
- Posting the number of correct orders each shift pulled then challenging the next shift to surpass that number.
- Running monthly competitions based on the cumulative number of correct orders pulled.
Hosting these kinds of competitions with rewards that employees value gives employees a chance to enjoy an added benefit from their jobs while improving their enjoyment and engagement in their daily duties. Just be sure the reward is appropriate yet valuable to employees — some examples of rewards include workplace awards, PTO or paycheck bonuses.
Why Use Warehouse Management Systems?
Now that we understand the importance of developing an efficient warehouse and engaged employees, it’s time to start thinking about ways to work toward these goals. One easy way is to implement a Warehouse Management System. This simple solution helps improve warehouse efficiency and employee engagement through multiple avenues, including the following:
- Reduce administrative tasks: Warehouse managers spend countless hours stuck on a computer screen managing administrative tasks. WMS solutions automate many of these processes, saving managers time and allowing them to get on the floor and lead.
- Maximize visibility: A WMS system tracks employee activity and stock in real time, allowing managers to access insights and see the footprint of your warehouse throughout the day. With this information, managers can see inventory, control employee efforts and even manage budgets.
- Simplify stocking and forecasting: One of the biggest benefits of WMS systems to the warehouse industry is the ability to visualize and forecast stocking needs. WMS systems can help track inventory effectively and are used to make predictions on how much stock is needed to prepare for the next holiday or product launch.
- Improve employee engagement: WMSs don’t just improve back-end tasks — they also improve employee engagement. Analytics from these systems can be used to visualize employee production numbers and even gamify the workplace, fostering friendly coworker competitions that can drive employee productivity further.
All of these benefits help drive productivity and efficiency, which in turn can help improve customer service and satisfaction. If you’re interested in implementing a WMS in your warehouse, FDM4 can help.
Contact FDM4 to Improve Your Warehouse’s Efficiency
FDM4 is a third party logistics provider that specializes in warehouse management systems. We can help you find the software tools you need to improve your warehouse’s efficiency and employee satisfaction. Contact FDM4 online or at 866-676-3364 today to learn more about our software solutions for your business.