The Industrial Internet of Things FEATURE NEWS

The Quick Guide to Warehouse Optimization

By Special Guest
Megan Ray Nichols, Science Correspondent
December 13, 2017

A warehouse is, at its core, a puzzle in business form. It works best when all the pieces fall into place, and in some cases, it's far too easy for those pieces to get misplaced. Optimizing your warehouse is the best way to make everything run smoothly, but where do you start? To help you take that first step toward optimization, we've organized a quick guide to warehouse optimization.

Implement 5S
The 5S method, a system for organizing a workspace to enhance productivity and efficiency, began in Japan and is used throughout the world today. The 5S's stand for the Japanese words seiri, seiso, seiton, seiketsu and shitsuke. When translated into English, they mean sort, set in order, shine, standardize and sustain.

  • Sort — The first step in optimization is to look at what you already have and separate it into two groups: what is necessary to maintain your business and what is not. Decluttering your workspace makes it easier to optimize.
  • Set in order — This is where organization comes in. Now that all the extra stuff is gone, you can organize and optimize what you have left into an efficient and cohesive whole.
  • Shine — Deep clean your entire facility, from the floor to the ceiling, and everything in between. It helps to reduce safety hazards and tends to improve the work environment of a plant as well.
  • Standardize — Now that everything is clean and organized, use this new improved facility to reset your standards. Keep those standards high!
  • Sustain — This is often the hardest part of 5S. You need to sustain the high level of optimization that you've just created to best serve your customers and your employees.

This is a massive undertaking, and if you don't do it correctly, it can actually make it harder to optimize your workspace in the future, but the potential benefits massively outweigh the risks.

Rack Your Pallets
If you store or ship any physical products, you likely use pallets to store and move them. Depending on your product, it might be tempting just to stack the pallets on top of each other. You save space, but what happens if you need to access the product that's on the pallet on the bottom of a six- or eight-pallet stack?

Invest in a pallet racking system. Period.

Yes, this step might require a substantial initial investment, but it can help to reduce your overall expenditures and make it easier and more efficient to store, retrieve and ship your products.

Once you have a racking system installed, it provides you with the foundation for implementing things like RFID product tracking and more advanced organizational programs. You can also pair racked pallets with things like automated sorting programs to improve your efficiency even further.

Ergonomic Everything
Your employees are just as valuable as your equipment when it comes to organization and optimization. Optimization is ideal, but not at the expense of employee safety or comfort. Consider investing in ergonomic equipment and improve or implement employee training and safety programs. Employee injuries account for hundreds of hours of lost work and millions of dollars paid out in workman's compensation claims every single year.

Warehouse injuries might be less severe than those that occur in manufacturing or other industrial settings, but that doesn't mean that you can spend less time focusing on safety.

Incorporate IIoT
If you've got an Alexa or Google Home device in your home, you are already familiar with IoT or Internet of Things devices. These networked items are designed to help make your home life more convenient — IIoT devices, or Industrial Internet of Things, are designed to offer the same sort of assistance in a warehouse or industrial setting.

Incorporating IIoT devices into your business can require a high initial investment, but the benefits that these items can offer is nearly immeasurable. IIoT tools can be used to organize product, keep track of inventory and shipping and handle some of the other more menial tasks that come with running a warehouse.

Running a warehouse doesn't have to be messy and disorganized. A well-organized warehouse is the key to running a safe and efficient business. By following this quick and easy guide, you can turn your messy warehouse into a well-oiled machine, improve your employee relationships and improve y

Edited by Ken Briodagh
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