Efficiency in your warehouse is paramount to the success of any distribution company. It’s actually amazing how little tweaks to processes can have big impacts on efficiency and therefore a organization’s bottom line. Despite this, so many distribution companies fail to make the changes necessary to improve their processes. Based on my experiences, here are 5 simple things a distribution company can do to improve efficiency in warehouse management.

1. Get a Warehouse Management System

A Warehouse Management System can provide your company with greater inventory visibility and improved warehouse efficiency by enabling organizations to better and more accurately deliver customer orders. Expedited orders can be reduced, and the ability of staff to quickly pick and ship products is made much easier. If your organization has yet to consider implementing a WMS system, it is time to start considering it.

2. Double Check Orders

Humans are prone to lapses in judgment, and as the saying goes, cross your T’s and dot your I’s. This has never been more of a requirement than in the warehouse. The cost for a distributor to send out an order for the second time, after messing up the first order, is typically over $100 (more than double the cost of sending a first order). That means for every mistake in order you make it costs you double. No matter how large you are, this is unsustainable for the financial health of your organization.

The simple fix is to always double check an order. Make it a policy, create a system, put a sign up so everyone remembers, do something! This is especially important when you have new hires picking orders.

3. Keep your warehouse clean

You know all too well how annoying it can be to misplace your favorite shirt, ball cap, or even your keys, and assume they’re “lost forever”, when in fact they’re just buried under a pile of junk in your bedroom. This simple scenario can cause immense frustration, make you late for an important engagement, and ultimately increase your stress levels well above a reasonable level.

So what happens when you’re unorganized and messy in your warehouse? The same thing, except instead of being late for an engagement, you might be late sending out an order, which costs you money.

Allocating an hour or two per week, or even per month, to cleaning the warehouse can lead to amazing improvements in your efficiency. You never know what missing or misplaced orders you might find. As well, a clean warehouse, means employees can move around more quickly and get things done easier. It’s just common sense.

4. Bring some order to your orders

Stacking items in an orderly, logical fashion enables easy and timely retrieval of items for staff and therefore increases efficiency. Employees will also find that items become more easily found and you are less likely to lose or misplace them, thereby reducing wastage and optimizing available space.

5. Have senior employees walk the floor

When senior employees have a few minutes of availability, a great way to identify inefficiencies is to have them walk the warehouse floor. Getting an outsider’s perspective on the day to day warehouse operations can go a long way to understanding where bottlenecks are occurring and why. Sometimes a regular routine has become so ingrained in the company’s operations that it may seem “normal” despite being grossly inefficient. Giving senior leadership – those with the authority to implement processing changes – insight into what may seem like mundane company operations can lead to extensive time and cost savings for the company.