Logistics & material handling facts for warehouse managers


Every warehouse is different, as are the materials that fill the space. Meet goals more efficiently and effectively by getting the best deals on material handling, focusing on safety and optimizing processes with the right software.

Warehouse managers can take advantage of their space by optimizing cube space and looking closely at every aspect of handling.

Making the Most ofSpace Utilization
If you rush to fill the warehouse without thinking it through, your materials handling process will be inefficient and unorganized. Try these tips to take advantage of the space you have:

  • Rid the area of unused or junk equipment sitting around.
  • Use shorter runs and JIT deliveries to decrease inventories.
  • Make use of racks. Before deciding, survey the various types and sizes of shelves. Many are expensive and may not increase your storage capacity as you thought. You must weigh the financial benefits with the amount of space you stand to gain.
  • Stack height pallets depending on the packaging strength, product weight and building height.

You also need to take a closer look at the layout. What type of inventory does the warehouse have? More massive quantities of just a few SKUs need multiple deep rows, while shallower rows will be required for smaller amounts of more SKUs. Using a spreadsheet will help you calculate how many racks and rows you need, as well as area to be used for aisles and storage. Don’t include future expansion, offices or docks.

Getting the Best Deal on Material Handling
When handling pallets, the most basic means used are lift trucks in various sizes and styles There are many types, and it can get confusing. Examples include stand-up trucks, swing mast trucks, straddle trucks, narrow aisle trucks, narrower aisle trucks, clamp trucks, push-pull trucks, fork trucks and — well, you get the idea. No matter what truck you buy, it’s important your team knows how to transport goods safely. Improper transportation can lead to damaged goods, or worse yet, injury for employees.

Conveyors are also helpful when delivering product from the manufacturing location to your warehouse. While conveyor installation and maintenance costs are expensive, the benefit is that they’re not as costly to operate as hiring drivers to run lift trucks. If hauling cases over long distances, automatic guided vehicles (AGVs) are an economical choice.

Build relationships with dealers that have a solid reputation, and take their recommendations to heart. It’s still a good idea to request demonstrations and visit sites that have equipment with related applications. If the process becomes too complicated, consultants are willing to assist.

On Safety in the Warehouse
Making sure employees follow safety procedures while operating warehouse equipment is essential, but warehouse managers shouldn’t overlook equipment maintenance and warehouse cleanliness — both of which can contribute to safety hazards.

Warehouse floors go through wear and tear and aren’t the easiest to maintain, with fuel spills and tire damage from forklifts. At the very least, an under-maintained warehouse floor presents an eyesore, but it poses a safety hazard at the worst. Typically, dry particulate soils make up 80 percent of soils affecting a warehouse environment, and sweeping is the best first defense, not scrubbing. Regularly maintaining warehouse floors also keeps products clean, ridding them of dirt, dust and sand, and keeping handling more hygienic.

When forklifts leak fluids, is anyone cleaning it up? This is an immediate cause for concern when it comes to slipping, but any grime or stains also reflect on how well the warehouse is run. Proper and thorough equipment training is also vital for personnel to stay safe in the warehouse.

Managing Processes With Software for Efficiency
A standardized process helps to effectively and efficiently manage inventory. Depending on the industry the warehouse serves with its stock, managing lot numbers helps minimize business costs, especially for foodstuff, chemicals and pharmaceuticals.

To maintain an accurate inventory, utilize cycle counting to measure the success of current processes and accountability for prospective error sources. Periodic 100 percent counts may be done through full-building counts or continual inventory maintenance counts.

Identifying the source of an error proactively begins with conducting process audits — it’s best to audit early in the process and regularly. Conduct checks over the course of every transactional step, from inventory that’s received to what’s shipped.

These processes are best assisted with software for warehouse inventory management, which helps to reduce data entry and with real-time tracking. Using a WMS or ERP system will boost efficiency by outlining the best methods and routes for pick-up and putting product away. These systems also send automated lists of picks to reduce waste and mistakes. RFID readers will improve transaction accuracy and minimize picking errors.

Sometimes, you will have to create a manual picking plan by analyzing current material patterns of use. Storing high-volume inventory close to the front saves travel time, and storing frequently sold items close to each other will help streamline warehouse operations. Some warehouse management systems (WMS) work with QuickBooks to produce a purchase order, making life easier for the warehouse manager.

Warehouse managers should optimize available space, invest in the proper equipment and maintenance, focus on safety and utilize warehouse management systems to create the most efficient of warehouses. Managers who pay attention to these elements of logistics and material handling will have a better shot at running well-organized and productive warehouse where employees are happy to work.

Article by —
Megan Ray Nichols, Freelance Science WriterMegan Ray Nichols
Freelance Science Writer