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Most small businesses don’t require a warehouse. Since their supply of stock is so small, they can usually just keep all their goods in a spare bedroom; their home essentially doubles up as a warehouse. However, sometimes, there comes the point when this is no longer adequate. At that stage, you’ll need to look at getting yourself a warehouse, which, as you’ll soon find out, isn’t all that straightforward to operate. There are correct ways and incorrect ways of doing things, and it’s important that you find yourself on the right side of the divide — either way, it’ll have a big impact on your overall success.
But how should you do this, especially when you’re relatively new in business and have limited experience with warehouse operations? Below, we take a look at a few ways to successfully manage your warehouse to ensure it works in your favour.
Get The Right Space
You’ll make running your warehouse all the more straightforward if you have the right size for your needs. If you get a warehouse that’s too small, then you’ll be endlessly falling over yourself just as you and your staff are trying to do your job. If you make it too large, you’ll end up paying for space that you don’t need. To get the right amount of space, it’s best to first get a clear overview of your stock turnover — but from there, you’ll need to make a prediction as to how much it’ll grow in the coming months. Take a look at your month-on-month sales increases, and you should be able to make a reasonably accurate estimate.
To get the most bang for your buck, it’s important that you’re not taking up valuable space with low-value or low-selling goods. Remember, the costs of your warehouse will have to be factored into your overall operational costs, so it’s in your best interest to use the space wisely. To do this, take a look at your sales data for the past few months, and establish which items have been selling like hot cakes, and which have been left in your spare room, your makeshift warehouse. Of course, it’s important that you’re not only keeping a few of the higher selling goods. Diversity of products will help you in the long-run, even if some of your items aren’t selling quite as well right now. But still, there’s little merit in keeping stock that will obviously not bring in revenue now or in the future.
Store Things Correctly
Time is money when it comes to everything related to your warehouse. As such, it’s in your best interests to implement a system that allows quick picking of items, and which also prioritises the stock that should be sold first for various issues, such as freshness or for warranty issues. One such way to do this to implement the first in first out method, which is a system that allows the oldest product on the shelf to be picked first. It’s a principle that is used by many large companies to keep their warehouse operations, and the beauty of it is that anyone can use it in their own operations.
Of course, whatever system you have in place will be useless if you haven’t fully trained the people who are going to be working in your warehouse how to do so properly. By far the biggest cause of productivity loss is the worker, and that’s purely because they’re human, and are thus prone to mistakes. However, if they’re fully educated about the correct way to work, then this inefficiency, while not removed entirely, will at least be reduced. Also, don’t forget that this process will be significantly more straightforward if you’ve hired the right staff in the first place. Advertise your job properly, look at the person as well as what they’re able to do, and pay well — you’ll end up with a team of staff who make a difference.
Another option to look at is bringing in more staff during busier periods. There’ll be times, perhaps around Christmas or your sales, when you receive more orders than at other times. In order to keep everything running smoothly, it’ll be best if you have other employees on hand to help your existing team.
You’ll likely have an idea of how well you’re working, but it’s much better to have some digital evidence to back up your impressions. If you have a scanner that says when an order came in, when it was picked, and when it was sent out, you’ll have a much clearer view of how well you and your team is working. It’ll also give you some much needed answers about where you can improve. For example, you might see that there are some items that seem to take longer than others to process — by conducting a bit of reverse engineering research, you’ll be able to determine what it is that makes those items problematic.
Clear and Tidy
Making sure that your warehouse is clean and tidy is not the most exciting policy, but it is, arguably, the most important. Having mess on the floor or things in the way slows things down considerably, in multiple ways. First, it makes it physically more difficult to get to where you’re trying to go. Second, if your staff doesn’t have faith that the walkways will be clear, then they’ll naturally be more hesitant when walking around.
Review and Update
Finally, make sure you’re taking the time to periodically review and update your operations. While you might implement a system that works well in the beginning, there’s always a chance that it’ll become less efficient over time. As well as your own systems, you’ll also want to take a look at any new ideas that are proposed in the warehouse world. The best ways of working and training methods get updated all the time.
With these tips, your small business warehouse operations should run more efficiently and smoothly.