Warehouse & Distribution Center Management: 5 Tips for Success

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Every day, new warehousing and wholesale supplier businesses are opening their doors, and plenty more are on their way out because they can’t keep up in a competitive economy. In order to maintain a successful distribution center in this business environment, you have to run an efficient operation in which you are constantly moving product and satisfying your customers. To keep afloat, it is important to maintain stable business relationships by providing reliable logistics and product delivery while keeping your costs down. In this article we’ll go over 5 ways to successfully manage your supplier business so you can fulfill all of these requirements.

Many logistics experts assert that warehouses and distribution centers are virtually the same operation, but experts like Cliff Holste at Supply Chain Digest insist that they are not. Though both warehouse and distribution center management operations typically take place in large warehouse environments, the term “warehouse” refers to a traditional product storage model, and “distribution center” refers to the more contemporary and high-velocity order fulfillment model. Whatever model you choose, it pays to streamline your operations with the latest organizational and technical upgrades. If you’re looking to improve operations and overall, successfully manage your warehouse or distribution center, consider these 5 tips.

1. Take Advantage of Technological Innovation

There are some excellent technologies out there that can make your job much easier. For example, a warehouse management system (WMS) is crucial to a modern distribution center management. There are many different types of WMS software packages available on the market, depending on your needs. Common functions include an advanced shipping notification (ASN) system, which can be used to keep track of all of the inbound orders you are receiving, which is crucial to properly coordinating shipments with crossdocking and replenishments. You can combine this with a vendor compliance program to make incoming shipments integrate smoothly with your operations.

Dynamic slotting modules and workflow organization systems are also important tools for streamlining your warehouse operations. A good WMS system has a number of other useful tools for managing orders, inventory, and shipments.

Also consider your automation options to make everything run smoother. Conveyor systems are excellent for closing the distances that pickers have to cover. Other operations can be successfully automated with picking towers, stretch wrap systems, robotic palletizers, and AS/RS systems.

2. Organize Your Warehouse

Warehouses feature complex organizational schemes that can be tinkered with in a dizzying amount of ways to increase efficiency and effectiveness. One way to think about this organization has to do with mapping out the flow of material in the facility. From the point at which you receive your merchandise to the point at which it leaves the warehouse to be shipped to your customers, you should be thinking about the most efficient way to direct the flow.

The product you are offloading last should be the first to go into your truck. This is just a crude example, but logistical questions like these will determine things like your pick path and the way items move through your warehouse. How will your products be stored and how will they move? What are the picking methods that achieve the most efficient results?

3. Manage Inventory

Inventory is a vital component to your operation.  Are you going to specialize in a specific type of products, or will you carry a wide variety? How much inventory are you going to have on hand at a given time?

It is a good idea to shoot for a low inventory and high velocity of materials in this business. Otherwise you will have to manage product shelf life and tackle other similar issues on top of everything else.

You may carry certain stocks at different seasonal periods, or your inventory may be constantly changing due to market trends. Your WMS can help you with dynamic slotting so you can keep on top of your inventory.

4. Analyze Everything

This secret ties in with the first point about utilizing technology, specifically, information technology. There are robust means of data collection and analytics available to modern supply businesses, and you should take advantage of high data resolutions to maximize the efficiency of every aspect of your operation.

Most of the data collection can be done automatically with features like barcode and radio frequency identification, which can be integrated into your WMS for greater control. Other ways to pick up data include voice-activated technology and RFID methods. You can also manually gather data if required.

Gather as much data as you can from your picking operations. This way you can decide whether a batch picking, zone picking, single-order, or multi-order picking methodology is going to work best with your particular business. If you treat every product movement as a transaction, you’ll have a greater wealth of data to determine how everything moves in your factory, which allows for maximum efficiency.

5. Stay On Board with Your Staff

A good amount of automation and data tracking will allow you to develop effective logistics, but your warehouse is only as efficient as your staff is effective at their jobs. It is a good idea to implement a robust training program that provides a standard operating procedure, which provides appropriate guidelines for working within your particular warehouse.

Training should include maintenance and operation of machinery, warehouse organization, reporting, processes, customer service, and other essential components of your business. Labor management software may help to keep track of your staff performance as well.

Employee feedback is always valuable, as on-the-ground information can be the best kind of data. Keeping your employees happy with a positive work environment improves communication and staff cohesion, which needless to say, will keep your warehouse running smooth.

Maximize Efficiency Today with Your Distribution Center Management

Distribution center management is an incredibly complex undertaking, and it will take plenty of time and experience to get everything just right. Plus you have to contend with changing markets to maximize your profit. These 5 secrets to success will get you on the right track and are a great place to start from when you are setting out to maximize your operation’s efficiency. Good luck out there!

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