What Is Warehouse Management? A Definition and Best Practices
Make no mistake about it: Behind every efficient fleet is a well-run warehouse.
The warehouse is the backbone of any shipping operation. Unfortunately, many companies struggle to maintain efficient warehouse environments. In fact, with so many moving parts, warehouses are often chaotic and mismanaged—and the root cause of many shipping errors.
If this sounds like your operation, then it’s time to turn things around. The good news is that by refocusing your efforts and prioritizing digitization, you can transform your warehouse. With the right approach, it can turn from your biggest pain point to your biggest strength.
In this post, we’ll explain how to accomplish this by forming a robust warehouse management strategy. Additionally, we’ll offer some best practices and get you on the road to success.
What Is Warehouse Management?
Warehouse management refers to the control and coordination of specific warehouse operations. It's possible to break it down into the following categories.
1. Inventory Management
Inventory is the lifeblood of any warehouse. As such, warehouse managers and employees need to be constantly aware of the items that are in stock. And they also need to be able to check quickly for availability when requests and orders come in.
Add it all up, and inventory management is one of the most important aspects of any warehouse operation.
2. Order Fulfillment Management
In addition to inventory management, teams also need to have an efficient system in place for processing and fulfilling orders. Orders need to come in, make their way to warehouse personnel, and get loaded for delivery in a safe and timely manner.
3. Over, Short, and Damaged (OS&D) Management
Oftentimes, orders will arrive in a different condition than outlined in the bill of lading. When this happens, the order will be marked OS&D. An OS&D notice basically means that something went wrong in the shipping process.
When items come back marked OS&D, the warehouse team must investigate to determine where in the shipping process the problem happened. This is usually the job of a dedicated OS&D clerk or a warehouse supervisor. It's vital to actively track and manage OS&D issues to avoid repeat issues from piling up.
4. Personnel Management
A warehouse is nothing without a team of dedicated employees to pull items and load them onto trucks. As such, personnel management is critical for success.
Managers need to have a system in place for coordinating schedules, handling time off, and dealing with disciplinary issues. Undoubtedly, poor personnel management can lead to staffing shortages, shipping delays, and unhappy customers.
5. Injury Management
Another important aspect of personnel management is injury tracking.
Warehouse injuries are very common. Therefore managers need to document problems when they arise. This is important for legal processing, as well as human resources and union matters.
6. Facilities Management
Yet another aspect that managers need to oversee during warehouse management is facilities management.
This is particularly important in areas with frequent snowfall, where plow and shoveling coordination is required to clear driveways and loading bays in order to keep the operation running smoothly.
7. Expense Management
Warehouses can be very expensive to operate.
Supervisors need to communicate with upper management regarding everything from heating and cooling costs to vehicle maintenance. Careful expense tracking is critical for success. The last thing any warehouse manager wants is to wind up in the red zone.
8. Fleet Management
Fleet management is important to consider, too. Very simply, fleet management is an umbrella term that refers to both daily vehicle tracking and ongoing vehicle health and performance.
Warehouse managers require robust fleet management systems to ensure timely deliveries and operational efficiency.
9. Customer Management
Finally, we’ve saved the most important component—the customer—for last.
After all, the customer is king (or queen). So all warehouse teams should have customer experience mechanisms in place for tracking customer happiness, processing complaints when they arise, and sharing updates. Most successful warehouse operations have customer management mechanisms.
Why Is Warehouse Management Important?
As you can see, there are many aspects of warehouse management, and all are important to the overall success of an operation.
What happens if any of the above-mentioned categories slip? It can lead to negative consequences. For example, you may see a disruption in operations. Also, poor management may negatively affect the customer experience.
In short, take warehouse management seriously. Equip managers with the necessary tools to keep operations flowing at an acceptable level.
Best Practices for Warehouse Management
Now that you have a clear understanding of what warehouse management entails, here are some tips that you can use to keep operations running smoothly.
1. Communicate Regularly
Warehouses often fail due to communication breakdowns and information silos. This holds true for upper management relations, floor personnel, drivers, and customers.
By prioritizing communication, warehouse managers can prevent small issues from snowballing into massive problems.
2. Don’t Let Problems Go Unaddressed
To that point, you need to deal with small problems while they're still small.
After all, in order to survive in this industry, warehouse managers need to be sticklers for details. This holds true from facility upkeep to safety and compliance issues.
3. Digitize Operations
All warehouses should be looking for ways to use digital transformation and modernize operations. All things considered, paper-based management systems are slow, expensive, error prone, and inefficient.
By digitizing workflows, warehouses can streamline all backend tasks while reducing risk, increasing productivity, and enabling lightning-fast communication.
The Benefits of Using Warehouse Management Software
In short, here are the top benefits to using warehouse management software.
1. Customizable Forms
In the past, warehouse management systems were rigid. Now, it’s possible to create cloud-based mobile applications that are fully customizable.
2. Instant Updates
Another benefit to digitizing warehouse management is that personnel can receive instant mobile updates whenever important issues arise. This can prevent problems from accumulating and bottlenecking.
3. Cost Savings
By eliminating paper forms, companies can spend less on filing and processing paper. In fact, you can transmit and store all forms in a secure cloud database.
4. Happier Customers
Customers will appreciate the added convenience and security of using mobile applications throughout the shipping process. It can reduce manual paperwork and result in faster processing. Subsequently, this can increase customer loyalty and help you build repeat business.
Top Warehouse Management Software to Consider
Here are some leading warehouse management software solutions to look into.
Softeon Warehouse Management System (WMS)
Softeon WMS offers a platform for distribution. It can streamline a variety of tasks, such as receiving, inventory management, order picking, loading, and more. Also, it’s delivered through the cloud or on premises.
Manhattan WMS is a mobile and flexible WMS that uses artificial intelligence and machine learning technology to orchestrate warehouse management tasks. Accordingly, it can help with everything from order fulfillment to shipping and receiving.
HighJump is a platform for agile and cost-effective management. This platform enables powerful warehouse automation at scale.
How Vector Can Help With Warehouse Management
Vector offers custom mobile applications that can streamline a variety of tasks, including signing off on workflows, scanning barcodes, and performing calculations.
Vector’s software can also integrate with third-party software management systems for added convenience.
This post was written by Justin Reynolds. Justin is a freelance writer who enjoys telling stories about how technology, science, and creativity can help workers be more productive. In his spare time, he likes seeing or playing live music, hiking, and traveling.