10 characteristics of a successful warehouse

What does it mean to have a successful warehouse? There are so many factors to consider when making improvements or finding new warehouse space. Inventory that must move through a warehouse needs to be dealt with in a secure, expedited manner according to priorities and schedules. Any one factor can be enough for the entire cycle of business to fall behind.
Breaking it down, we've put together our top 10 essential characteristics which we believe dictate the success of a warehouse in its management and implementation.

Warehouse with racks of pallets and a forklift in the foreground.

1.   Warehouse Standards

Every good warehouse needs a set of standards by which it runs on the daily. These are the rules, guidelines and expected results from a regular work cycle set forth that all employees can adhere to for their jobs to ensure smooth operations. Standards are the baseline of management and should be made to go unchanged as long as possible.

2.   Warehouse Processes

Streamlining the process for receiving, picking and shipping is a must. Confusion at any point in this chain of events will slow things down and decrease efficiency. To retain high efficiency, processing stock must happen smoothly at every level. The receiving lanes should be clearly marked and easily opened, stocking and picking should be done with ease and have accessible lanes on the warehouse floor for manoeuvring, and shipping should occur with just as much precision and accuracy.

3.   Predictive Planning

Businesses fall into three categories for planning and staging. They can be reactive, proactive, and predictive. Reactive warehouses respond to stock as it comes in and makes plans accordingly when needed. Proactive planning considers what can come in and has plans in place to make sure any and all stock can be accounted for and processed. A predictive model will know what is coming in based on trends and timing, and not need excessive planning stages for stock that isn’t arriving.

4.   Your Warehouse Staff

Labour is a vital part that keeps your warehouse and supply chains running. Well trained staff should have a full understanding of the warehouse itself, the work culture and the standards and processes that are implemented. Well-seasoned warehouse workers may bring old habits from previous jobs, and new recruits will require experience with the floor before they can move with confidence. Taking unique training angles depending on the background of new staff will help them learn how your warehouse works, and their place in it.

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5.   Zoning

Warehouses function best when they can be sectioned into proper zones. There should be zones for loading and unloading, zones for storage of specific product or materials, and all zones must be clearly marked. Even if staff can memorise the floorplan, they can’t easily predict who will be coming around a corner. Zoning for traffic is essential to prevent accidents and ease travel with tools through the aisles.

6.   Building Security

A high sense of security doesn't just mean how well the doors stay locked when work is done. Cybersecurity is also crucial, to keep accurate up-to-date documents and reports on computers that detail the inventory and shipping manifests of all business going through the warehouse. This is vital data which, if breached, can cause a loss of confidence in clients or a loss of their personal data, which can end partnerships. Make sure the locks on doors, in computers and in employee training are all secure.

7.   Warehouse Location

Location is everything in industrial and business real estate. Choosing a correct location for a new warehouse is essential - but it is best to consider whom it is essential for. Being closer to retailers and major commerce centers lessens travel time and shipping costs, but also servicing further away industrial hubs will increase cost to them. Determine which location fits the focus of your warehouse, your main customer base and what your service is best equipped to handle before setting the groundwork.

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8.   Supply Chain Technology

A successful warehouse will stay up to date with the latest and most useful technology to streamline and expedite processes and procedures. Not all warehouses require full automation or proprietary data tracking measures but relying on older technology for too long will open up holes in the flow of work where improvements could be made. Keeping up to date on labour technology such as powerlifters and electric vehicles keeps a warehouse on the cutting edge of their industry.

9.   Emergency Protocols

Keeping a strict protocol in place for dealing with emergency situations is a must. Accidents can happen, emergencies can come up, from upstream or downstream someone else’s mistake can affect the running of a warehouse. These are standards put in place that only need to be followed sparingly. Keep systems updated and secure, stay ahead of the curve with management software and put decisions in place with the right people to make them in times of crunch or crisis to mitigate emergencies before they can spread to affect others in the supply chain. Maintaining that stability keeps uncertain times from impacting your business and its people.

10.   Customer Service

Warehouse management is, at its core, a consumer driven business. While not dealing with end consumers directly, businesses take the role of major consumers vying for the space on racks and shelves in the warehouse for their products. Their needs may differ depending on their industry, their own projections and their own business models. A warehouse may need to facilitate the needs of competing businesses, or businesses with different requirements and attention to manage all of their orders. Maintaining positive customer relations keeps business regular and reliable. Work with businesses at their discretion, while maintaining your own internal standards which can account for the variance in outside influence, or keep business relegated to those who can work with you the easiest for more reliable returns on good service.

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