Warehouse Operations: A Manager’s Guide to Streamlined Success

August 5, 2020

Warehouse Operations: A Manager's Guide to Streamlined Success

Today we’re looking at everything a manager needs to know about streamlined warehouse operations. Aaaaaaaoooooh!

Whenever I see the term warehouse operations, I think of “Werewolves of London“! That’s Warren Zevon’s one-hit wonder from back in 1977, and the refrain is bloody catchy. That song is also a great example from rock music history that you can catch lightning in a bottle.

“Werewolves of London” was the most famous song of Zevon’s career, but according to rock legend, it reportedly took only 15 minutes to write.

“Aaaaaaaooooh, Werewolves of London!”

“Werewolves of London” is pure pop brilliance. It made Zevon’s career. But it’s also been performed and recycled by an array of artists, including the Grateful Dead, Adam Sandler, and Kid Rock.

In baseball, “Werewolves of London” was the walk-up music for the bearded ballplayer Jayson Werth. In addition, the London, Ontario, minor-league baseball team named itself the Werewolves; their mascot, Warren Z. Vaughn.

In other words, talk about 15 minutes of fame!

The lightning flash of inspiration struck Zevon. But clearly, the thunder of “Werewolves of London” has continued to rumble. This illustrates a universal truth—the decisions we all make every day rumble and echo into the future. And the really good decisions? Those can make a lasting positive impact.

The Warehouse Manager’s Mission

Warehouse managers know all about working quickly and making lightning-fast decisions. The question, then, is how do we set up our warehouse operations to keep the thunder of success rumbling?

This article acts as a guidebook to cover the critical elements of warehouse operations. We’ll share a few helpful nuggets to help streamline your understanding of warehouse operational success. We’ll cover:

  1. A brief definition of warehousing
  2. The best of the best practices in warehouse operations
  3. A focus on the digital revolution and future of warehouse operations

In truth, as decision makers it benefits us to think about the cause and effect of lightning and thunder. We need to recognize the value of making a great decision— quickly. In addition, we must look for those decision-making moments.

There are many moments throughout the day that are opportunities to make a lasting positive impact…for ourselves, our teams, and our organizations.

Aaaaaaaaaoooooh, Warehouse Operations!

When we talk about the world of logistics, warehousing is a hot topic. There’s an old adage that goes something like, “everything in life traveled on a truck.”  It’s becoming obvious that the same thing could be said about warehousing: “Everything in life spent time in a warehouse.”

The fuel behind warehouse operations’ fire is the supply and demand trends in the global marketplace. For instance, the overlapping trends of e-commerce, smartphones, apps, online shopping, social distancing measures, and the Amazon Prime-ification of the universe all result in more demand for warehousing capacity.

Warehouse Operations: Defining Terms

According to the AAUP Business Handbook, “In its simplest form, warehousing is the storage of goods until they are needed.”

In other words, warehousing is the act of storing goods and products after someone produces them, in order to bridge the time gap until someone sells or distributes them.

The goal of warehouse operations, like any business, is to satisfy customers’ needs and requirements at a fair market price. By some estimates, the global warehousing market is valued at half a trillion dollars.

Thus, the challenge for every warehouse operations manager who wants a piece of that pie is to use their space, time, equipment, technology, and labor effectively. It’s also vital to manage safety.

Safety, Safety, Safety

Now more than ever, the focus on safety does not concern just floor personnel and fork-truck drivers. Warehouse managers must also consider the safety of everyone under their roof, including the people in the back office!

A warehouse manager’s core functions include:

  • Develop a warehouse operations system and procedures for using equipment.
  • Figure out processes for receiving, storing, packing, and shipping inventory.
  • Determine product handling and storage requirements.
  • Develop, implement, enforce, and evaluate policies and procedures for staff.

Meeting these goals requires constant planning, forethought, and adaptation to ongoing and never-ending change.

At the end of the day, warehouses are dynamic places where time is money. In other words, speed is key in warehouse operations.

That’s why we’re here—to list some of the best practices that will give you an edge on your competition.

Warehouse Operations: Best Practices and Processes

We know that warehouses come in many shapes and sizes. They must store the entire spectrum of products and materials. That said, every warehouse has fundamental similarities. These are the core processes driving every warehouse:

  1. Receiving
  2. Storage
  3. Picking
  4. Packing
  5. Shipping
  6. Use of technology
  7. Safety

Optimizing these seven processes will allow you to streamline your warehouse operation, reduce cost and errors, attain higher customer satisfaction, and increase revenue.

The Best of the Best

Of these core processes, use of tech and concern over warehouse safety have changed the most.

In general, there’s never been more tech in warehousing. There’s also never been as great an emphasis on safety in warehousing. As a result, these are the two areas that give you the biggest opportunity to streamline warehouse operational efficiency.

Formerly, safety meant “train the fork-truck drivers to not run into each other.” But now, safety means tech. I’ll explain below.

Warehouse Safety Protocols

As has been noted, warehouse safety is a top priority. In truth, some companies fail to promote safety due to inadequate resources, outdated thinking, or a desire to cut corners. But in fact, a safe warehouse delivers more cost savings in the long term.

To put it another way, a workplace disruption at your warehouse means a supply chain disruption for your customer (or should we say your former customer?!).

Best practices to ensure warehouse safety include:

  1. Proper equipment training and handling guidelines
  2. Personal hygiene requirements and use of personal protective equipment (PPE)
  3. Disinfecting work stations and common areas
  4. Interaction protocols and social distancing guidelines

So how then do you accomplish these goals? Correspondingly, how do you streamline our use of technology while keeping your people and business healthy? The answer might hit you like lightning and have your whole crew howling Aaaaaaaaooooh, warehouse operations!

How Technology Can Improve Revenue and Safety

In effect, companies such as Vector kill two birds with one stone. They offer the best imaging software on the market that provides the most dynamic solution for increased revenue and warehouse safety.

How does Vector do it?

First of all, contactless deliveries are being implemented throughout the supply chain. Vector leads this initiative with their best-in-class electronic bills of lading (eBOLs).

The benefits to digitizing the paper-based BOL process were already obvious from an efficiency standpoint. Now, eBOLs give you the added benefit of reducing safety risks and increasing the health and wellness of your staff and overall business.

Vector enables seamless collaboration between warehouse personnel, drivers, carriers, and consignees. Vector’s end-to-end customizable digital solutions easily capture all workflow paperwork to facilitate contactless pickups and deliveries.

The enhanced visibility unlocks efficiency gains by removing manual processes associated with paperwork. Contactless pickups also ensure the safety of your entire warehouse floor, back-office personnel, and incoming drivers.

Win, win, win.

“Walking through the Streets of SoHo in the Rain…”

There’s no question the world is changing, and that extends to warehousing. But some folks, sooner or later, always come out of any situation as the winner. To that end, read the landscape. Subsequently, I think you’ll see exactly what the future winner’s next step would be.

Yes, implementing new tech is an investment and requires resources. But in the final analysis, this decision should be easy. Bring the idea of customizable digital solutions to your decision maker, and then listen for the thunder to undoubtedly start rumbling. The first pina colada’s on me!

Aaaaaaaaaaaooooooh, warehouse operations!

This post was written by Brian Deines. Brian believes that every day is a referendum on a brand’s relevance, and he’s excited to bring that kind of thinking to the world of modern manufacturing and logistics. He deploys a full-stack of business development, sales, and marketing tools built through years of work in the logistics, packaging, and tier-1 part supply industries serving a customer base comprised of Fortune 1000 OEMs.

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