“Measure twice, cut once” is an old proverb which still proves true today – especially in the world of warehouse experts and inventory experts. Whether you’re just setting up a distribution system for a new product or have been warehousing for years, it’s important to implement each new procedure correctly from the get-go.

Everyone makes mistakes, and it’s a smart business person who will learn from those mistakes and then put them behind him or her. At the same time, mistakes, especially in a warehouse environment, can be costly and time-consuming – not something your customers want to hear about.

So you can either make excuses to your customers (probably only once – after that they’ll go find someone else), or you can follow these basic warehouse/inventory tenets from your Fishbowl consultant to insure your customers are getting product on time, not excuses:

Optimize Your Warehouse Layout.

First off, make sure your warehouse is well laid out. This is of primary importance because then high-traffic areas can be easily identified, which means your transit lanes will be clearly understood by all floor staff. How much room do you have between your rack and your shelving units? Is there enough so that all forklift and scissor trailer traffic can efficiently and safely move product from one location to another? Don’t neglect to have structural obstructions like beams and pillars clearly marked. Convex safety mirrors, strategically placed, will add an extra layer of safety and speed to your warehouse operations. And don’t forget that the safer your warehouse is judged by insurance companies, the lower your insurance rates are going to be!

Make Your Shelving and Mezzanines Heavy-Duty.

It’s your responsibility to see that all inventory is protected from damage. Whether it’s raw material or finished goods, you need to employ nothing but heavy-duty shelving along with industrial mezzanines so warehouse staff can efficiently pick and then place your inventory. This is especially important for work-in-process inventory, which can be spread out over several bays. See to it that your storage units are both well-constructed and also sturdy, so they can handle and protect large crates while being stored. You can significantly reduce the carrying costs of inventory by being vigilant about minimizing damage in the warehouse.

The Right Tool For the Right Job.

Not only tools, of course; but parts too. Bolts, shims, seals, and washers; how easy are they to get at when they’re needed? Don’t make it hard for your employees to get these essential things by making them fill out reams of paperwork! And don’t be afraid to change vendors if you can’t trust the one you have to supply all the parts and tools that keep the workflow in your warehouse steady and efficient. Your supplier should be able to provide you with shims and ring washers for every size and width that you require without any costly delays.

Match Your Equipment to Your Needs.

And make sure your employees are all adequately trained on warehouse warhorses like forklifts and scissor lifts! You simply can’t move heavy inventory any longer without these machines, whether your warehouse is unionized on non-union. Can your current equipment handle the weight that comes from moving crates and pallets inside the warehouse and outside to the delivery trucks? Remember, shipping containers are getting larger and stronger to handle more and more inventory. Don’t wait until your lifts break down to upgrade – by then it’ll be too late to save all of your disgruntled client’s business!

Compliance is King.

As mentioned earlier, the safer your warehouse becomes the more likely you are to save on insurance rates. Safety is also a crucial factor when it comes to local and state ordinances in your area. In order to be in compliance, and to go beyond it, make sure that you have marked all traffic lanes with vivid industrial floor tape to help employees understand clearly where equipment can move and where human traffic streams are strictly off-limits. This goes for placards and warning signs, too. In today’s polyglot employment world, it would be a good idea to have your signs and placards in Spanish as well as English. You should also do a periodical survey of your employees to see what other language groups might be represented; if you have a large staff you may find yourself getting signs made in Ethiopian or Hmong as well!

You may be restricted as to how much you can change if you’re working with an already-established warehouse; but if you’re laying out a new building be sure to keep these suggestions in mind as you map out how you want your inventory to be laid out.