During the full lifecycle of a product, it is likely to spend some time in a warehouse. After production, before it begins its journey to the consumer, or at a staging location for restocking and order fulfillment, warehouses play a pivotal role in supply chain management. Each day, consumer goods companies all over the world perform warehousing and storage. Many employ the service of a 3PL partner, while others maintain their stock in-house.
Storage spaces can take a lot of different shapes and sizes. Warehousing might look very different from company to company. But the main functions of warehousing and storage are standard across all verticals. Maintaining inventory and providing safekeeping for a product before it enters the purchaser’s hands is the main goal. Here are a few of the key features of quality warehousing and storage and the benefits of each for companies of all kinds.
Unloading and Loading
Unloading and loading is a simple concept but is one of the most overlooked pieces of warehousing and storage. Unless you are storing containers of product in a yard, you must offload your goods from a container. For over-the-road freight, your goods will arrive at your warehouse in a 53′ trailer. For ocean shipments, you are most likely to see a 40′ or 45′ container rolling up to the dock. Unloading and loading are pivotal moments in the life of your product. One mishap with a forklift can render an entire month’s revenue null and void. Choosing a warehousing and storage partner you can trust will ensure the safety of your product.
Sort and Segregate
Once the product is in the warehouse, it needs to be sorted and segregated. One popular approach to “sort and seg” is to group SKU numbers. Grouping ensures you’ll know exactly where you can find widget x (hint: it’s with all of the other widget x stock!). Having a clear system of categorization – even if color or size organize it – will help streamline the latter stages in the lifecycle of your product.
Your sort and seg practices will help you take command of your inventory control. Essentially, inventory control is keeping track of stock in a warehouse. A good warehouse manager can give an accurate count of every item in stock on-demand. If you are utilizing a 3PL warehousing and storage provider, they should be able to offer remote visibility of your stock. At the very least, you’ll want to schedule consistent meetings and updates with your partner; this will make inventory control quick and painless. It will also cut down on losses and missed revenue due to miscounted stock.
Safety and Security
Safety and security in the warehousing world is another overlooked aspect of the practice. You’ll want to employ a partner who has a fully secured facility. But you’ll also want to make sure their staff is certified and properly trained. In a warehouse, security goes beyond the locks on the door. Standard operating procedures and healthy workflows result in a healthier supply chain.
The process of kitting is the process of grouping separate but related items into one package or order. If a customer in the hospitality industry is running low on flatware and other dining utensils, kitting will be performed to create a shipment to replenish their inventory. Forks, knives, plates, napkins — all products found in the dining room — go together to complete a single shipment.
Similar to kitting, consolidations are the grouping of pieces into one shipment. A consolidation groups unrelated items into one whole. If you are creating a consolidation for an auto parts store, you may have lug nuts, windshield wipers, and care cleaning products all on the same pallet. Safe practices play an important role in consolidations. Having a team that knows how to pack, wrap, and can stack a pallet properly, will have your shelves fully stocked for your next rush of customers.
Order fulfillment is an important stage in today’s market. No matter how your orders come in, being able to fulfill requests is vital to your success. Culture is moving quickly toward (and in some cases is already there) an on-demand world. Your 3PL provider should have the ability to pick and fulfill orders efficiently.
Laying all of your products out in a logical order maximizes time and encourages quick turnaround on orders. Think about a pizza parlor. When an order comes in for pizza, most are going to start with the dough, sauce, and cheese. 80% of your orders have these three items. Of course, we are going to put these three ingredients side by side for quick access. Next, come the toppings for the pizza – pepperoni anyone? If we know that pepperoni is a favorite on pizza, we’ll need it near the foundation ingredients. But wait, it’s also a crucial piece of the antipasto salads which comprise 19% of our orders. The most strategic location for the pepperoni will be somewhere near both the pizza and salad fixings. Organizing will give quick and easy access to the ‘Roni for 99% of the orders your team creates. Make sense? Good. I’m going to grab some lunch!