How to streamline your warehouse logistics

There are three distinct areas of warehouse operation: inbound, storage and picking. Each of these areas has the capacity to be streamlined. In a competitive warehousing environment customers expect rapid and efficient order fulfilment and that’s just one of the benefits that come from optimising warehouse logistics. There are other benefits too – reducing costs, improving responsiveness and developing systems that enable better decision-making. Warehouse logistics can be a complex business, but this article will explore the key areas in which streamlining warehouse logistics can benefit any warehouse – whether large or small – and how to go about the process.


Why streamline warehouse activity?


There are a number of benefits to be expected from improving your warehousing operations:


  1. Greater efficiency – whether it’s inbound, storage or pick and pack, increased efficiency reduces costs and improves productivity.
  2. Better inventory management – this helps to reduce overstocks and allows for better stock control overall, so that you never end up in the position of disappointed customers because something is out of stock.
  3. Operational transparency – effective streaming gives greater clarity into your warehouse space, both literally, by improving the visibility and safety of your physical environment and also in terms of clarity into your supply chain and greater logistic transparency so procurement and distribution can be better managed.
  4. Improved safety – all the other streamlining processes can enhance safety in a warehousing environment, leading to a safer and better employment experience and longer-lasting and better managed equipment.


streamline warehousing

There’s a clear distinction between doing things well and doing things rapidly. Streamlining is the process of combining speed and efficiency to create an optimum condition in which costs are reduced, productivity is increased and customer satisfaction improved.


Manage warehouse inventory without complexity


It’s important to begin at the beginning. A warehouse exists to store stock. Traditionally warehousing was a stockpile activity – grain or hides or spices were hoarded against the day that prices were high enough (or rulers decreed) that they should be released onto the market. This can be a mindset that still pervades warehouse operations, whereas today while a warehouse still exists to store stock; its primary purpose today is to expedite the movement of stock from supplier to customer – and sometimes that means that the stock never passes through the warehouse at all!


  • Improving inventory begins with analysis. An inspection of the current warehousing and logistics processes can reveal weaknesses or areas of improvement. Data like order accuracy, returns and order cycle time can reveal as much about warehouse operations as can audits and inventory turnover.


  • Process mapping is a way to identify the flow of processes throughout the warehouse. It requires simplifying each process into small, individual steps which can then reveal bottlenecks, inefficiencies and redundancies. Once identified, these problems can be solved, either by reorganising the process, changing the warehouse layout, opting for a new technology or involving an outsourced solution such as finding a third party logistics partner.


  • Inventory management software can be one way of streamlining warehouse activity and while just-in-time management strategies have not held up that well during the pandemic/Brexit challenges to supply chains, there are still other ways to work with inventory management software to improve demand forecasting which allows you to optimise your ordering processes.


Explore lean principles to improve warehouse performance


Streamlining and lean principles tend to go together when organising warehousing operations. In a nutshell, lean principles are:


  1. delivering value as defined by the customer – this requires engagement with customers to know what really matters to them, not just what you think they value
  2. eliminating waste and redundancy – many warehouses have areas of duplication or waste which can – over time – negatively impact profitability. For example, wastage in packing areas or failure to fully implement space through pallet storage
  3. continuous improvement – streamlining warehouse logistics is not a once only process; it requires regular reassessment so that once obvious changes have been made, other improvements can follow on the original substantial alterations. **


Improve warehouse communications


Possibly the least exploited aspect of logistics streamlining is the capacity to improve communications and partnership working to benefit performance and enhance responsiveness to customer need. There are often barriers between departments that rely on warehousing: purchasing, warehouse management, logistics, that lead to poor coordination of activity, increased lead times and reduced customer satisfaction. Streamlining this through regular meetings and catch-ups, sharing data in real time and well-planned and well-managed performance reviews, at least quarterly, can give those departments a clearer picture of warehouse management, raise the profile of decision making around warehousing and create the basis on which better communication with external partners in the supply chain can be implemented.


Cloud computing to streamline warehousing logistics


The application of cloud computing to warehousing operations is relatively new. It’s a system that allows organisations to both store and access data in and from any location, at any time. This gives three major benefits:


  • Greater flexibility – in a 24/7 multi-channel sales world, being able to see the exact position of your stock and operations can be vital to ensuring you are meeting customer need in a timely fashion
  • Multi-location operation – given that last mile delivery is the greatest problem with warehouse logistics cloud computing can give businesses the chance to set up smaller multi-location operations
  • Scaleability – both growth and retrenching are essential processes, especially where warehousing is seasonal, and having realtime information can help warehouse managers scale up and down their activity based on solid data rather than guesstimates.


Not all warehouses will benefit from all these streamlining processes, but virtually every warehousing space can better implement and utilise one or more of them to increase productivity, reduce running costs and develop a clearer and more reliable picture of operations.

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