If you are a warehouse manager or director, you must be a pro at dealing with details. Knowing where your equipment is at all times seems impossible. Scanning equipment takes a long time. And as the cherry on top, your team sometimes packs the wrong items!
With warehouse management, you can tackle these challenges, making your warehouse run smoother and more efficient.
In this article, we will teach you how to master warehouse management, and with that, unlock the secrets to running a productive rental business. More specifically, these are the topics that we’ll cover:
1. What is warehouse management?
2. Difference between inventory, stock and warehouse management
3. Types of warehouses
4. 7 key warehouse management processes
5. How to optimize your warehouse processes
6. Creative ideas to ‘fun up’ the warehouse
7. Invest in a warehouse management system
As you can see, we’ve got a lot of ground to cover. But first, let’s start with the basics.
So what is warehouse management?
At its core, warehouse management means controlling, analyzing and optimizing your warehouse activities. Think of overseeing your storage, order fulfillment, and shipment of your products.
So what does it mean when you have your warehouse management in check? In concrete terms: You and your employees know where all your equipment is at all times, what its current conditions are and when, where and how items need to be shipped. Sounds great, right?
Wait… what is the difference between inventory management, stock management and warehouse management?
Okay, at this point in your career, you’ve probably heard of the term warehouse management, but also inventory management and stock management. So what is the difference between these three?
Inventory management involves overseeing the ordering, storage, and tracking of goods within a warehouse. It focuses on maintaining optimal inventory levels, reducing stockouts, and minimizing holding costs.
On the other hand,
Stock management encompasses the handling and control of goods within the warehouse, ensuring accurate stock counts, proper organization, and efficient utilization of space.
Combine these two and you get:
Warehouse management which entails inventory management and stock management while encompassing broader operational aspects of the warehouse, such as order fulfillment, picking, packing, and shipping.
Now we know what warehouse management is, let’s dive into the different types of warehouses.
Consider the different types of warehouses to choose from and avoid unnecessary costs in the future
Warehouses can vary in size, layout, and functionality based on the specific requirements of your niche. Some common types of warehouses include:
- Public Warehouses: Public warehouses are owned by the government and offer storage space and services to multiple businesses on a rental basis (monthly fees). Although they are often not the most technologically advanced, they are the most affordable option. This makes them perfectly accessible for start-ups and small businesses.
- Private Warehouses: Private warehouses are owned and operated by individual companies, and offer dedicated storage facilities tailored to meet your specific requirements. This type of warehouse will cost you more than public warehouses, but in return will give you more control over the size and layout.
- Bonded Warehouses: Bonded warehouses are authorized by customs authorities to store imported goods before they are released for local distribution or re-export. This type of warehouse is perfect for companies that are dealing with cross-border trade.
- Temperature-controlled Storage Warehouses: Equipped with temperature-controlled environments, cold storage warehouses are ideal for perishable goods like food, pharmaceuticals but also artwork! These warehouses can be refrigerated or frozen.
- Consolidated Warehouses: A consolidated warehouse resembles a public warehouse, although it is owned by a third-party and offers flexible contracts instead of strict monthly fees. This type of storage receives small shipments from various sources and waits until they become big before shipping out. So, they provide a cost-effective solution for small companies with fluctuating storage needs.
Choosing the right warehouse will depend highly on the type of rental business you and your team are running. Is the business just taking off? Choose a low-cost warehouse like public or consolidated.
Need to ship equipment that is sensitive to external factors, such as temperature? Choose a temperature-controlled storage warehouse to make sure the quality of your equipment does not go to waste. For example, if you need to store film, Kodak recommends temperatures of 25°C for black and white film, and 10°C for color film.
Whatever it is, give yourself time to choose the right one, or reach out to other businesses for advice, as moving warehouses can be costly and time consuming.
Once you’ve made your decision and set up your warehouse, it’s time to start thinking about the processes that take place in your warehouse!
Know your basics: key warehouse management processes
Before you dive further into the ins and outs of warehouse management, it is important to understand the basic processes first. The warehouse management process involves a series of activities to ensure efficient operations. Typically, these steps include from start to finish:
Determining the optimal storage location for each item based on factors such as demand, size, weight, and accessibility. In this process, you organize your warehouse to maximize space and efficiency, before you receive your goods.
When receiving the items, the first step is to check on quality and the right quantity. Take this step with utmost care, as wrong items in your warehouse inventory can be immediately shipped back and not cause any further mistakes in the warehouse process along the way.
The process of receiving and placing goods into their designated storage locations within the warehouse.
Most of the time, the received items need to be stored for a little while before being shipped to their (temporary) owner. Therefore, they need to be put in your warehouse inventory before being picked. This should be one of your most strategic actions, as it impacts space utilization, stock control and facilitates demand forecasting. This can break or make your overall warehouse efficiency!
So, our advice would be to digitize your inventory. By implementing inventory management software, you gain real-time visibility into stock levels, automate processes, and generate accurate reports and analytics.
Time to set sail? When the item is ready to be shipped, it is time to pick it up from the storage location and pack it. For this process, the picker will have to receive a packing slip.
Packaging the picked items securely for shipping while ensuring accurate labeling and documentation.
Coordinate the dispatch of packed items to the intended destination. Unless your business ships with its own vehicles, this often involves carrier selection, such as UPS, DHL or FedEx.
Do you want to keep a visual copy of these illustrations?
In order for these warehouse processes to run smoothly every day, it’s smart to take safety, quality and efficiency actions along every step of the way. Curious what that looks like? Quickly read along!
Take these 6 fundamental actions for warehouse optimization
Alright, so now you know which processes your warehouse management should consist of. But how can we make these run as smoothly as possible?
By implementing the following key strategies, you will streamline processes, improve inventory management. Here is how to run an efficient warehouse:
- Maximizing and optimizing space: Make the most of your warehouse by utilizing every inch of available space. This means investing in proper storage systems, so try to refrain from using broad and low shelving and use vertical storage solutions instead.
- Track Key Performance Indicators (KPIs): Identify and monitor relevant KPIs, such as order fulfillment rate, inventory turnover, and picking accuracy. Regularly analyzing these metrics will allow you to identify areas for improvement and make data-driven decisions.
- Use labeling systems: Implement a comprehensive labeling system - including text and colors - for inventory, storage locations, and shipments. Clearly labeled items and designated storage areas reduce picking errors and save valuable time during order fulfillment.
- Organize according to your customers: Consider the needs and preferences of your customers when designing the layout of your warehouse. Group together items that are frequently purchased together to facilitate faster picking and packing. You’ll reduce the time required for order fulfillment if you place the most popular items in easily accessible locations for your employees.
- Ensure quick preparation: By implementing efficient picking and packing strategies such as wave or batch picking, you minimize errors, and reduce the time spent on each order. Also consider opting for using barcode scanners and RFID to enhance speed and accuracy.
- Outsource to 3PL: No need for a one-man show! Referring to Third-Party Logistics, a 3PL provider offers a range of services related to inventory storage, distribution, and order fulfillment. By leveraging an expert, you can use their infrastructure and technology to run your warehouse more efficiently.
By implementing these steps from different disciplines, your warehouse is ready to take on various challenges. However, not all successes come from preps or labels…
Go the extra mile: bringing work satisfaction to the warehouse
So you find your business is starting to kick off as orders are coming in regularly, keeping your team busy. But how do you make sure the efficiency of your warehouse will last for long? By bringing fun into the game of course!
One of the keys to business success is employee satisfaction. First and foremost, it is important that your team knows the ins and outs of the warehouse operations and that they are familiar with the warehouse management software. After that, you can keep the spirits up on a daily basis by for example:
- Creating colored workstations: Designate specific colors for different areas or types of workstations within the warehouse. For example, you could assign the color yellow to receiving and inspection stations, blue to packing and shipping stations, orange to quality control areas, and so on. This way, you lift up the mood by using happy colors and improve the chances that the warehouse will always be organized correctly.
- Personalizing work gear: Provide your team members with custom patches or badges that they can attach to their work gear, such as safety jackets. These patches can include their names, nicknames, or even symbols that represent their interests or hobbies! By doing this, you create a sense of belonging and individuality among your team members, making them feel valued and appreciated.
- Creating a suggestion box: Encourage your employees to (anonymously) share their ideas and suggestions for improving warehouse operations, either in a physical suggestion box or digital platform. Regularly review the submissions and acknowledge and reward employees whose suggestions are implemented. This not only promotes employee engagement but also demonstrates that their opinions are valued, giving them more motivation and excitement to show up to work the next day.
- Celebrating milestones and achievements: Invest in the art of celebration! Recognize both small and big milestones, such as reaching business targets or achieving individual sales goals. Consider organizing parties or asking people to bring their favorite treats or snacks after successes. Celebrations create a positive and motivating work environment, and they show your appreciation for your team's hard work!
Another important way to create employee satisfaction is by taking out the bad stuff. In other words: solving the most common warehouse frustrations, like accidentally planning broken equipment. Luckily, there is an easy solution: implementing a Warehouse Management System!
Go digital: invest in a Warehouse Management System
Managing a warehouse is an all-encompassing task, so implementing a warehouse management system (WMS) will be able to bring numerous benefits. A WMS can automate and streamline inventory management, which we are all too familiar with.
So, we created software that simplifies your warehouse management. With Rentman, you can:
- Create equipment databases and digitize your warehouse, which enables you to store detailed information for each item, based on its serial number.
- Use digital packing lists to ensure the correct gear leaves the warehouse and reaches the right hands.
- Import and manage inspection results, allowing you to track past inspections and repairs for each gear item, right down to the serial number level.
- Access the equipment timeline and perform quick searches to know what you have in stock at any given moment.
- Generate reports to support better purchasing decisions, reducing the need for frequent subrenting of equipment.
With all these functionalities, your crew will have full autonomy and reduces the number of mistakes they make. This leaves you with more time to work on your business and make better purchasing decisions!