The end of the year is almost upon us and, if you’re like most businesses, that means your team is working harder than ever to keep orders flowing and your warehouse from falling apart. They’re hoping to keep up with demand and ensuring every package is right before it leaves your door. While they’re focusing on “the now,” it’s time for you to focus on tomorrow. That means planning and preparing your business, inventory, and warehouse based on performance, problems, and data. At Made4net, we often promote the inclusion of a warehouse management system in your New Year plans because it can provide all the tools you need to grow safely and cut the fat out of operations. Even if that’s not where you’re headed next year, here are a few tips that you can use to make sure 2017 ends strong and 2018 starts even stronger.
Count It and Prep It All
The start of the holiday season is the perfect time to look at inventory that sells slowly or not at all and consider what you can write down. It’ll be more beneficial for you, in most cases, to do a write-down and get rid of inventory that isn’t selling. Those write-down thoughts should also get you ready for a year-end audit of your entire stock. Even if you’re running a WMS that provides you with consistent cycle counting and inventory levels, the end of the year provides you with the team you need to verify records. Plus, getting out in the warehouse may help you or your team think of something innovative to do with what is, or isn’t, performing well. You might also discover broken goods, theft, or other problems that will hurt your company’s profitability. One final thought on the inventory review is an inventory check, which can help some warehouses. Essentially this reviews the market value of your goods and can generate tax deductions if your goods decline.
Organize Your Warehouse
Don’t stop at just a cycle count of your inventory; the end of the year is the best time to do much more. We recommend you start to reorganize your warehouse based on goods’ popularity and picking lanes. The more organized your warehouse the more productive your staff. Keep your warehouse layout as simple as possible — such as keeping high-volume goods in a prime location — to streamline your operations and start generating operational business intelligence. And remember, every way you can reduce costs and pick time will boost your overall profitability.
Get Receiving into a Proactive Mood
Receiving just doesn’t get as much love as the rest of the warehouse, especially when you’re running around like mad to fill orders that scale up during the year-end holidays. However, bottlenecks in your check-in process will ripple through your entire operations so that order fulfillment slows, inventory levels see errors, and the warehouse gets disorganized. Creating new piles of goods in your receiving areas or stopping the flow through and cross dock activities make it harder to keep everything accurate and timely. Turn this around by giving yourself a clear process for receiving and scaling up the space you have before any busy season. Give your crew time and room so that they can process your receiving right away. Plus, keeping receiving in line allows you to ensure goods are inspected, reducing customer complaints and returns due to defects. Push a proactive mentality by making it easy for your team and helping them with automation and other tools when available.
Automate Picking and Other Processes
One of the best ways to keep receiving in line is to start automating your warehouse. We think that picking is the best place. Not only is picking the most time-consuming process of most warehouses, but manual processes can introduce a wide range of counting errors, slow fulfillment, and missed opportunities. Remove as many manual processes as possible and watch your operational efficiency climb higher and higher. You should also look at the additional modules your WMS offers to see if you can make next year more profitable. For many growing businesses, this includes route planning tools that help you optimize distribution spend through smarter deliveries and routes. Look for areas that are a dual-win. Route planning tends to lead to faster deliveries and more on-time activities, which can improve the customer service you deliver while still helping you balance revenue. You might even be able to save 5% to 20% off transport costs when you look at fuel, labor, and the size of your fleet.
Give Yourself Time to Adjust
With all that said, here’s our last piece of advice: take a breath. There are a lot of ways you can adjust your warehouse and review your inventory when the year ends. The more you do, the better you’ll position yourself to improve operations and reduce costs, while opening greater potentials for profit. As you tackle these activities and increase requirements during slow times, remember that your staff has likely been very busy lately. The end of the year can be months of running at a breakneck speed. So, build in time for these activities, instead of trying to add them onto the existing duties of your team. They’ll appreciate getting specific time for new tasks and they’re more likely to complete them correctly, which makes a significant difference for your profitability.