How to Reduce Errors and Warehouse Shipping Mistakes
Any warehouse is subject to risk. Especially true of those in the warehouse industry who conduct business on a global scale, a broad range of threats can impact your profits and even your business’s viability. Factors such as political unrest, protests, and strikes as we are seeing some currently during the Covid-19 pandemic, economic destabilization, rising courier rates, natural disasters, and government regulations can all generate risk—and this is just an abridged list, because the risk factors are nearly endless.
But how can a warehouse business account for such a wide and complex array of risk factors? With the addition of advanced machine learning, some of these factors can be spotted and the risks mitigated. While preparation for the external and unexpected is advisable, businesses should also focus on the factors that they can control, such as the number of mistakes made internally within their warehouses.
Common Warehousing Mistakes
Each warehouse and its needs are unique—entirely dependent on the supply chain it serves and the warehouse itself. This means there is no one-size-fits-all warehouse management technique either. However, there are plenty of similar factors amongst warehouses to establish a baseline of best practices to optimize efficiency and reduce the number of errors and warehouse shipping mistakes.
The following eight mistakes are common crimes against efficiency committed by even the most well-intentioned warehouse managers—and it makes sense, considering the complexity and meticulous nature of successfully managing a warehouse, even with the assistance of modern technology.
These eight mistakes arise time and time again, and many warehouse professionals will be able to spot signs that they are occurring within their own warehouses. Quick corrective action can create substantial positive impact on warehouse operations, reducing both overhead and errors committed.
Failure To Incorporate Technology
Modern technology should be a no-questions-asked integration into any successful warehouse. The most effective warehouses integrate technology at every level of every process—collecting and analyzing data on inventory, supply chain, and fulfillment as well as utilizing real-time automations to account for demand, choose the best carrier rates dynamically and automatically, establish the best distribution of goods across warehouses, and so much more.
The utilization of technology, especially predictive technology, helps reduce labor costs, wasted space and inventory, and reduce the impact associated with manual processes. An effective warehouse management system (WMS) will also reduce mistakes in receiving, shipping, picking, and packing which can help offset aforementioned uncontrollable and unforeseen risks that happen outside of the warehouse.
Storing Too Much Inventory
Storing too much inventory is the bane of a high profit margin. Not only does it often result in defunct inventory—losses that ultimately impact prices paid by customers and lowering a business’s competitive advantage—it also results in greater costs associated with storage, less efficient organization of goods, less flexibility and agility if a business chooses to pivot, and even higher costs associated with labor and technology used to distribute, sort, and pick as picking paths become more expansive and circuitous than necessary.
Holding less inventory not only imparts more agility and reduced overhead costs, it also frees space for other meaningful business activities such as expanded shipping and receiving areas, since overcrowding of these spaces is strongly associated with making mistakes.
Similarly, reducing inventory frees cash that can then be used to grow the business by investing in other things that will build upon themselves such as increased warehouse automation or a Warehouse Management System (WMS).
Planning Packing Paths Poorly
Analyzing and resolving picking path inefficiencies is among the easiest and fastest warehouse errors to correct. Planning picking paths effectively can decrease labor costs, decrease supply chain times and boost employee productivity and morale. Especially in conjunction with decreased inventory, businesses can see major boosts to speed and efficiency, creating a more productive, profitable business with more room to grow.
Keeping A Disorganized or Messy Warehouse
Messy environments sap productivity and morale. Not only can they be mentally draining, they can be dangerous—especially in a warehouse environment. Messiness and clutter can impede worker movement along ideal picking paths as well as cause greater time spent searching for items. An easy solution to this is to implement a cleaning routine at a set interval such as at the end of each shift.
Reduce Errors and Warehouse Shipping Mistakes
When you make a mistake, you give customers a clear message about their value to your company. Too many of these mistakes can cause substantial harm to your company’s reputation, and this has never been more true than now. As more customers expect small, customized, and astonishingly fast shipments, even small errors become apparent, and customers have little patience or tolerance for these mistakes when given options for competitors who could fulfill their orders accurately and perhaps even more quickly.
On the other hand, fast, accurate shipping also sends a clear message—your business is valuable to us. We will serve you to the best of our ability, and will continuously work to improve your experience as our customer.
This means less labor costs in customer service and shipping corrections, better prediction capabilities, and a much higher likelihood of success.
Automate Your Warehouse
Warehouse automation includes things like machine learning and data collection, barcode scanners, picking robots, warehouse management systems, and other forms of technology that make warehouse processes more seamless and less prone to error. When humans are not the primary source of insight and are not tasked with accurately counting items or inputting data, machines are better able to handle these tasks more quickly and with fewer mistakes.
Add Structure to the Process
Any efficient system is founded upon some sort of process. Adding structure to receiving, picking, packing, and shipping can greatly improve rates of accuracy and success. Perhaps as important as creating the structure is conveying it to employees in an effective way and facilitating an environment in which the structured process can take place with as few impediments as possible. Training is critical here—someone must lead this process, else structure will evolve on its own, almost definitely in an inefficient way.
Reduce the number of steps in order fulfillment
Don’t overcomplicate what doesn’t need to be overcomplicated. Reduce the number of steps in your order fulfillment process to as few as is reasonable. The more you can simplify each process within your walls, the fewer warehouse shipping mistakes that will occur. Eliminate ineffective redundancy whenever possible.
Set a baseline to measure improvement
To know how you’re improving, it’s best to have something to measure against. By setting a baseline, you are easily able to tell what is working which then gives an opportunity for reinforcement. Otherwise, it is impossible to tell what, if any, benefits are being seen from the changes you implement to reduce errors.
While the world outside may be complex and volatile, especially during times like pandemics, warehouse companies still have a say in what happens within their own facilities. ShipWorks provides modern solutions for modern problems, helping even high-volume shippers simplify and automate processes. Our customers see substantial error reduction as well as increased profit margins and visibility.