Improving efficiency is a critical goal for warehouse managers.
Every step of the fulfillment process – from when inventory is received, to when it’s stored, to when it’s shipped out to customers – is essential to your success. But one of the most overlooked strategies for maximizing warehouse efficiency is establishing a straightforward putaway process. Here are the critical parts of the putaway process and how to put them to work.
Putaway encompasses everything from when inventory is received to when a shipment is sorted and stored. But the journey from the loading dock to the shelf or also known as dock-to-stock, can be full of pitfalls. For example, inventory can be misplaced, or your workers might accidentally miss crucial information as they perform tasks. To avoid as many of these problems as possible, you need to set up a foolproof system that keeps your stock where you need it, when you need it.
Implementing the optimal putaway process enables your warehouse to fulfill orders faster and more efficiently with your available space.
Knowing the exact number of SKUs in your warehouse and their locations makes finding space for your next shipment much easier. With a sound putaway process, you know where each item is being held and how many are on stock. What’s more, fulfillment platforms powered by artificial intelligence (AI) can tell you where to put the newest inventory based on real-time SKU demand.
Having full control of your inventory means you spend less time scrambling to find particular SKUs. By tying AI-powered business applications to your putaway method, you can meet customer fulfillment demands smoothly.
Your warehouse may already have deployed a machine helper or two. Integrating AI-powered software to direct your putaway process helps to augment your human workforce. Moreover, cloud-based software means you don’t have to be on site all the time and can enable you to address issues right from your web browser. In the SaaS model, vendors offer state-of-the-art software on a rental basis, so you only pay for the software you want when you need it. SaaS applications can be renewed or swapped out at the end of the rental contract period, so you’re never stuck using software that no longer serves your business purposes.
Regarding updates and service, SaaS vendors retain responsibility for keeping their software running smoothly. This means you can focus on keeping your warehouse operating at peak performance levels. And you can think about how best to boost warehouse efficiency through capabilities like automation.
In addition to SaaS, consider trying robots-as-a-service (RaaS). It’s a way to discover what automation can do to boost efficiency and lower costs in your warehouse, while freeing your human labor to take on value-added activities. Like SaaS, RaaS vendors rent out robots so you don’t have to buy them. You can test out RaaS, find the right fit, and scale up or down as your needs change.
Part of the picking process is removed. Instead of sorting items for a shipment based on a particular feature or category, all the inventory in a batch is immediately moved into its designated area. This approach works well for warehouses that receive a lot of inventory for select customers.
Fixed – or fixed-location – putaway is perfect for a warehouse that stores inventory with varying storage needs. Items are sorted based on the environment or location that the product itself needs to maintain quality. For example, frozen goods or perishable foods need to be allocated fridge to the refrigerator or freezer section of the warehouse. All relevant goods will end up in that area while they await the next step in the fulfillment process.
Whereas fixed putaway stores inventory in set locations, dynamic putaway puts inventory in available space as needed. It considers the requirements of both warehouse inventory and customers and sorts items in real time accordingly. This approach works best for spaces that store items of similar size and weight that can be held in roughly the same conditions. Notably, however, this method doesn’t abide by rigid rules regarding inventory management. As a result, for example, it may be more difficult to locate items that get buried behind other stock.
A warehouse is a fixed unit of space. It can only be increased if floors are added or expanded, or additional warehouses are obtained. It’s up to warehouse managers to make the most of their space by optimizing how they use it – which makes putaway a critical tool to achieve fulfillment success.