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How Can I Boost My Warehouse Workforce’s Efficiency?

Jeff MareeIncreasing efficiency in your warehouse will go a long way toward improving your productivity and profit. While you can hire an efficiency expert, there are some risks and costs associated with going that route. Implementing a few simple, common-sense methods will help improve efficiency without alienating your employees or jeopardizing safety.

Reducing errors
Mistakes are a possibility in all stages of warehouse operation. Each worker should assume responsibility for his or her part of a job performed. Whether workers sign their names to inventory pull sheets or packing lists, accountability is an important element in reducing errors. Look at where the largest errors are occurring and which workers or stages of operation are responsible for them.

Hold each employee accountable for their mistakes. Instead of having a packer run to retrieve the correct items for a shipment, have the picker that pulled the wrong items correct the error. Most workers take pride in their work and are driven by achievement goals. If an individual does not make improvements, retraining may be required.

Training
If your employees are not trained to perform a job correctly, you cannot expect efficiency. Maintain a set of training records for each worker and review the records periodically. When job functions change, retraining may be needed.

During training, ask the employees doing the job what they think about the process. They are the ones that can give you the best input into what is working and what is not.

Organization and accessibility
No matter how well trained your crew is, if your warehouse is not laid out in an effective manner you will not be able to maximize your efficiency. Analyze each area of your operations and look carefully at the flow from one stage to the next. If materials are not organized in a reasonable way, change your method.

Efficiency is also adversely affected by clutter. If workers cannot get to the supplies and materials need quickly, you are losing time and money. When inventory is received, the materials must be inspected and entered into inventory and then immediately placed in the correct location.

Supplies that are used in daily operations must also be organized and accessible. If workers are spending a half hour or more a day just trying to locate what is needed, your company is losing significant production time. This is another area where your workers can provide suggestions for making the job processes easier and faster.

Take part in each operation
You may not personally have the time to experience each step of your warehouse’s production flow. However, hands-on experience is the best way to gain insight into what works and what does not. If you cannot participate yourself, supervisors should become involved.

Each stage of a job must be viewed from the beginning to completion. This means from where products or materials enter your facility to where the products are shipped out. By looking at the individual processes involved, you should notice any redundancies and inefficient handling procedures.

Track progress
To really get an idea of how your efficiency efforts have helped, you’ll need to begin measuring different efficiency indicators. This may be the amount of time it takes to fulfill an order, or the number of times a package is touched throughout the warehouse process. As you track, watch which changes affect the different indicators. This will help you develop an efficiency improvement plan that works best for your unique business.
Without tracking, you will not notice areas where backsliding occurs. Tracking must also include any changes in efficiency when product or technical changes occur. New equipment may cause a temporary slowdown as workers become accustomed to the use. If the decrease is not temporary, you will need to determine what the problem is in order to correct it.

Rewards
As you begin to reap the rewards of a more efficient warehouse, it’s a good idea to include your crew in celebrating their efforts. Profit sharing is just one of the options you have available to reward your employees for increased efficiency. When it comes to offering rewards, ask your crew what they would appreciate.

You might also consider implementing a reward for ideas that provide a boost to your warehouse efficiency. When work and ideas are rewarded, employees feel appreciated and are more inclined to continue to improve.

Losses in efficiency come from many additional areas. In one study, absenteeism or illness caused an economic loss of approximately $260 billion each year. On a positive note, according to the United States Department of Labor, productivity rose in many industries in 2013. By concentrating on the areas you can control, you should realize improved efficiency and greater profits.

Author Bio:
Jeff Maree is the product specialist at Commercial Filtration Supply, a leading online supplier of Eaton liquid filtration products. Working directly with his warehouse staff, Jeff is always looking for new ways to improve the efficiency of his team.

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