When is the last time you gave your wholesale and distribution warehouse a checkup?
We’re not talking about taking inventory, although of course, that’s important. We’re talking about checking into the entire routine in your warehouse; the technology powering your warehouse and the systems and processes you’ve put in place to handle goods and fulfill orders.
With companies like Amazon continually raising the bar of customer expectations, wholesale and distribution warehouses that are slow, unresponsive, or unwieldy can quickly turn into a problem if they create a poor impression of your business. Customers are used to two-day shipping, easy returns, multiple ways to pay for products, and real-time updates on their retail shipments; they want the same from their business partners.
It’s time to give your entire wholesale and distribution business a thorough review. By updating, enhancing, and improving it, you’ll provide a better customer experience.
Software Checkup: Integrating Software for a Seamless Experience
Integration is now expected from most software. If your systems aren’t integrated or require considerable manual intervention to work properly, you’re losing efficiency.
Some trends that you might want to learn more about include:
- Automated Capacity Management: Automating capacity management ensures that stock is rotated according to LIFO or FIFO (whichever your warehouse uses). It also helps you manage warehouse space efficiently.
- On-Demand Warehousing: Have you considered renting out unused warehouse space? Some businesses encounter seasonal fluctuations that mean part of a warehouse stands idle during off seasons. New on-demand warehousing enables these companies to sublet or lease sections of their warehouses to other companies, turning unused space into profits.
- Automation as a Service: You’ve heard of SaaS (software as a service), but automation as a service might be a newer term. Automation as a service lets you use automation only where and when it makes sense. It helps you access automation technology without a complete investment.
- API Connections: APIs or application programming interfaces make it easy for tech developers to work with systems. An API allows you to connect multiple programs to one central program, for example. Systems are now being created with APIs that can enhance wholesale and distribution warehouses by adding complex shipping, management, and other software to their base ERP.
Physical Warehouse Space Review
After your software review, it’s time for a physical walk-through of your warehouse to note improvements. A few examples:
- Automating illumination: Setting lights-on motion sensors can save considerably on your electric bills. Warehouses often keep overhead lights burning throughout the workday but some areas of the warehouse may not see as much traffic as others. Instead of keeping big light fixtures on all day long consider installing sectional lighting or a combination of overhead and motion-detected lighting for low volume corners of the warehouse.
- Backstock and return areas: Are the backstock and return areas staffed or do you expect warehouse employees to run items back into inventory when they get a chance? If it’s the latter, chances are good you have an overflowing returns area, because warehouse workers leave it until last. Assign an employee the task of scanning items back into inventory on a daily basis and checking the backstock area to replenish shelves and bins as needed.
- Clean the pack and ship area: Ripped cardboard, packing foam or peanuts, empty boxes … the pack and ship area can get messy, fast. Look for ways to organize it so it’s easy to keep it clean. Mistakes are easy to make when packing and shipping items if the area is cluttered with orders. Talk to your staff and ask for their suggestions. Those who work in the area are the ones best to make suggestions to improve it.
Your wholesale and distribution warehouse is an important part of your business. Reviewing both the software powering its systems and the actual warehouse itself for functionality and efficiency is a smart move that can boost profits and reduce costs.
For more information on warehouse and distribution software, ERP software, and other products to power a modern manufacturing business, contact Emerald TC. We offer sales, support, and training for ERP and other software products.