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Creative ways to improve warehouse productivity

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Collin Mackenzie, blogger and aspiring shipping consultant, explores some creative ways to improve warehouse productivity.

Running a productive warehouse is seldom easy. You not only have to motivate workers to be productive, but you also have to optimise work conditions so that they incentivise efficient labor. Luckily, there are some creative ways to improve warehouse productivity without having to oversee your workers constantly. So, let's see what they are.

How to consider running a warehouse

Before we get into the actual ways of improving warehouse productivity, we should set some things straight about running a warehouse. While there is more and more automation in warehouses, we are still some time away from them being completely automatised. As it is now, you need to employ workers to help organise and manage your warehouse. And the last thing you want to do is place them under constant surveillance. While, for inexperienced people, this might seem like a good idea, multiple studies have shown that it is not the best way to go about increasing productivity.

Instead, your goal should be to motivate workers to be productive and give them the necessary tools to shine. By nature, most people enjoy being productive and efficient. Therefore, finding a creative way to incentivise this productiveness and efficiency is far more cost-effective than constant oversight. Once you factor in the stress and the overall feeling of distrust that constant supervision brings, you will see that motivation is the better solution, especially in the long run.

Ways to improve warehouse productivity

Now that you have a better understanding of how our methods for productivity improvement are supposed to work, let's take a look at some of them that are tried and true.

Increase overall comfort

There are numerous psychological studies that explore the impact that our environment has on our productivity. Things like lighting, temperature, and openness can substantially impact how concentrated and energetic we are. Therefore, if you want to start increasing your warehouse productivity, start by considering the work conditions. Of course, warehouse safety should always be paramount. Apart from that, your employees should feel comfortable while working. Any discomfort takes away their attention from work, as they need to figure out a way to adjust to it. Therefore, ensure that there is enough light and that warehouse is properly climatised.

If you are not sure how to make your warehouse more comfortable to work in, don't shy away from talking to your staff. More often than not, they will tell you precisely what causes them discomfort or what they would like to have for increased comfort. Something as simple as a rest area where they can have a cup of coffee can do wonders in worker productivity.

Two-layered organisation

It should be evident that having a well-organised warehouse is the cornerstone of decent productivity. But, unfortunately, properly organising a warehouse is easier said than done. The essential thing to remember is that different systems work for different warehouses. Therefore, you'd be smart to try and find one that suits you. Time and experience are usually the key factors in figuring out a decent organisation method, as theoretically speaking, every warehouse organisation system has its pros and cons.

What we advise you to do is to start with a two-layered organisation. Here you'll need to keep track of the name of your items, and how often you handle them. The more often you handle an item, the easier it should be to reach it. Moreover, all the inventory should be in a clear alphabetical (or numerical) order. Combining these two should make finding the necessary item efficient and easy. International moving and storage companies like use methods similar to these, as they are easy to explain to new workers and easy to monitor. While this method has its flaws, it is an excellent way to start organising your warehouse and see whether there are any ways to improve further.

Open communication

The most important aspect of efficiency is communication. Without it, workers spend a surprising amount of time misinformed, which makes them waste time. Therefore, in order to help your workers be as productive as possible, you need to ensure that they have top-notch communication technology. Here, again, you need to figure out which system covers your warehouse properly. Most companies have designated warehouse managers who have a direct line with workers. Workers can even wear GPS tracks to help managers orient them correctly. All your workers should have hands-free communication devices if they are to do their jobs efficiently. We also advise you to invest in a decent EPOS system, as it can be used for inventory management and workflow organisation.

Furthermore, you should encourage your staff to communicate with each other. More often than not, they can help each other be more productive. But, in order to do so, they need to build up relationships. Weekly meetings where you encourage them to talk can be helpful. You provide further help by organising team buildings or office get-togethers. As you probably know, working in a warehouse can be quite stressful. This is why these get-togethers can be a great way to both increase overall workplace wellbeing, and alleviate some of the stress.

Incentivise efficiency

While there are many ways to improve warehouse productivity, none of them will yield results if your workers aren't motivated. Therefore, one of the tired and true ways to increase productivity is to reward your workers for being productive. Apart from having the "employee of the month", you should try to financially reward your workers for better performance. After all, if an efficient worker is paid the same and a lazy one, there is not much incentive to work hard. The recommended method is for your workers to have the same base pay and then implement rewards based on performance. With modern equipment, you should be able to keep track of your worker's output.

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