Grandmothers are fond of saying “A place for everything, and everything in its place.” As well they should be, especially if they have anything to do with inventory management or warehouse management.

It is a rare customer who orders something six months in advance. More likely, they want their order delivered yesterday. If your inventory control is what it should be, you and your warehouse staff will be able to lay hands on a customer’s order immediately.

If not . . . You had really better pay attention to these four important tips to store and manage the stock in your warehouse:

Automated stock is mandated.

A warehouse management system that is automated through the use of barcodes or RFID tags is the first step, and a crucial one, to making your warehouse(s) function optimally. Inexpensive barcodes and a vigorous software system will insure worker productivity and efficiency. Productive workers are happy workers, and efficient workers stay longer — becoming more valuable assets to the company. Inventory control and fulfillment capacity will be at their peak when they are fully automated. If you are floundering with your automation systems, ask your Fishbowl consultant for help and ideas.

Placement of stock.

A warehouse expert knows that the key to developing an efficient delivery system is to have an optimized picking process in place. Put your best-selling items nearest your shipping area; slower-moving products can be put farther away. You’ll be surprise, and pleased, as how this improves your order fulfillment cycle times, and decrease the amount of repetitive labor your warehouse staff must do. It does away with frantic scavenger hunts. In order to understand just which products are most often purchased together, make sure you statistically analyze your inventory data — and encourage your staff to do the same thing. Out on the floor they may notice patterns that are not as clear to you. Make them partners in the smooth running of the warehouse, even if it takes a little more time and effort — it will always pay you dividends in worker satisfaction and practical solutions.

Get rid of traffic barriers and enforce traffic lanes.

A rush order can be like rush hour on the freeway — everything backed up and cattywampus. Sometimes logistics dictates that high end items have to be stored in hard-to-get-at places, or in places with high-traffic. This can create housekeeping problems when your staff has to temporarily abandon working on one order in order to get another higher-priority order out. To avoid unnecessary delays you’re going to have to play traffic cop and keep designated traffic routes clear at all times, no matter what. This is not being hard-nosed — it is being hard-headed; once your staff knows you won’t bend the rules, the flow of warehouse traffic will become much more manageable.

Prevent inventory problems before they occur.

Check your preventive maintenance schedule each day, and make sure it’s being adhered to! There’s so many things that can go wrong in a busy warehouse. Wrapping machines break down; products with expiration dates go unattended; conveyor belts snap; leaks may develop in chemical and other liquid products; the list is endless. Don’t take a trouble-free day at your warehouse for granted — you’ve got to earn it by keeping on top of all potential delays. Remember that your customers don’t want excuses from you — they only want their order shipped on time. So inspect and replace ahead of warranties and expected shelf life.

With these four tips, and the help of your Fishbowl expert, you can expect warehouse efficiency to improve and employee performance to reach new levels of expertise.

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