Having a solid warehouse management system in place is essential for manufacturers to be successful. There are four tools to help with optimizing your warehouse management system:
- Warehouse layout
- Automatic reorder points
- Supply chain management
- Barcode scanning
All of these build off of each other to create an environment in which manufacturers can thrive. Let's explore how they all work together.
One of the biggest holdups in the manufacturing process is often the amount of time it takes to pick all of the raw goods and materials that are littered throughout a warehouse. Everything in a bill of materials has to be on hand and ready to go in order to begin manufacturing a certain product. So if you can shorten the man-hours you spend picking orders, you will really boost your efficiency.
Here are a few ways you can do just that:
- Revamp your warehouse layout to put items that are frequently used together next to each other on the same aisle and shelf. Keep in mind that not every combination will be obvious (like nails and wooden boards). Some may be rather anachronistic (like French fries and ice cream). A computerized warehouse management system will help uncover these combinations.
- Put high-use items closer to the work area and receiving bay. This saves time on both the receiving and manufacturing processes.
- Map out your picking path on a barcode scanner or other mobile device so that you can walk through your warehouse once and not have to double back and keep doing the same rounds time and time again.
Automatic Reorder Points
Having a well-planned warehouse layout is a great idea, but it won’t do you much good if you don’t have the right number of parts in that warehouse to facilitate manufacturing. Having too few items in stock will lead to stockouts and delays while having too many will lead to unnecessarily high carrying costs and a cramped and cluttered warehouse.
Automatic reorder points are helpful tools in maintaining a balance of inventory in each warehouse. When the quantity of a specific item in your inventory reaches a low level, your warehouse management system notifies you that it is time to reorder that item. If you have a really good system in place, it can even tell you the proper quantity to reorder, based on historical sales trends, lead time, and other data points.
Supply Chain Management
Just as the effectiveness of your warehouse layout is dependent on having the right inventory in your warehouse, automatic reorder points presuppose the presence of supply chain management. It’s important for manufacturers to maintain good relationships with their suppliers or vendors. Getting favorable payment terms can have a big impact on cash flow. Plus, you should monitor your vendors’ performance over time so that you can see if a vendor is getting orders to you accurately and on time.
A good way to keep track of all of this is to use a warehouse management system that lets you track product movements, integrate with your accounting solution (such as QuickBooks), and set default vendors for all of your parts and products.
We briefly mentioned barcode scanners in the Warehouse Layout section, and now let’s delve deeper into why these tools are so important in manufacturing. A little barcode scanner does two big things:
- Increases efficiency
- Reduces errors
Scanning barcodes to pick materials, reorder items, and receive items into your warehouse makes those processes go much faster than attempting to hand type them or write them down on a piece of paper. Your warehouse workers can get a lot more done in the same amount of time when they’re not tied down by obsolete practices.
Plus, they’ll avoid a lot of potentially costly mistakes when entering data. Even the best typist will make typos from time to time on a keyboard. Writing just one wrong number in an item’s ID number or quantity can have disastrous consequences. Barcode scanners keep these typos to a minimum by automatically populating the correct information with the scan of a barcode. There’s very little to type, and the information is instantly updated in your warehouse management system so every worker and leader can stay on the same page.
Planning to Succeed
Planning and maintaining your warehouse management system by using a great layout, automatic reorder points, supply chains, and barcode scanners is a big boon to manufacturing. These tools allow you to move faster, be leaner, and ensure the accuracy of your inventory data at each stage of manufacturing.