Capture data at every unloading touchpoint.
There’s a reason this point is the first in our list—comprehensive data capture is mandatory for cost management in high-volume warehouses. The arrival time of a truck, the pace of unloading, the time it takes unload and move goods to the appropriate place in the warehouse, and the picking and shelving of product at the storefront are just a few of the warehouse data points that can be recorded, measured, and optimized. Distribution center operations are streamlined over time through active monitoring of these processes, since long-term trends in warehouse data are ripe for study and improvement. In addition, real-time availability of data allows for course-correction on particularly busy days.
There are out-of-the box solutions for warehouse data capture, but in some cases a proprietary technology is more extensible and has been built to serve common needs observed through years of on-site management. LiveDock, Costa Solutions’ dock management system, is one such product, developed through decades of service to warehouses in the grocery and food service industries.
Data about warehouse, shipper, and unloading service performance can be reviewed from a holistic viewpoint, making it easy to diagnose problems across the entire inbound supply chain and find opportunities for greater efficiency. The best systems allow managers to evaluate whether shipments are delivered according to internal standards and compliance, understand which loads cost the most to handle, measure timeliness of deliveries versus schedules, and get insight into which loads may be more problematic than others.
Automate as much as possible.
If your warehouse operations are still recording shipment data on paper or via manual data entry, or worse, not capturing data at all, it’s time to take a hard look at the technology in place. Automated data capture represents the current standard in warehouse management, and while it can be costly to implement advanced systems, warehouse managers can rely on trusted freight unloaders to bring their own technology suites into the mix.
Leveraging a third party’s technology and unloading expertise avoids having capital tied up in process and technology improvements, which evolve rapidly. The cost to utilize a highly competent unloading service is frequently cheaper than internal management, and the benefits include but are not limited to technology access and specialized outside perspectives on efficiency.
It can be in a warehouse’s best interest to schedule incoming shipments simultaneously. This way, the crew is already at the dock and working, minimizing idle and setup time.
Many shippers provide advanced shipping notification, so that warehouse labor can be organized ahead of time down to the minute. It’s no longer enough to count on arrival times based on precedent, because a difference in schedule of even minutes can impact efficiency. Understaffing at the dock when a shipment arrives will trickle down through the rest of the warehouse, so the best warehouse managers have advance planning down to a science.
Incentivize wherever possible.
It’s important to have high standards for all parties involved in warehouse operations, but it’s not enough to threaten punishment for underperformance. From worker pay to vendor compliance, using incentives is the best method for improving performance and relationships between warehouses, hired labor, and shippers.
There are a myriad of pay-for-performance models for managers to consider. We pay our employees based on performance, such that top workers are compensated on success across a variety of metrics. The same thinking can be extended to shippers, whose adoption of the warehouse standards in terms of timeliness, palletization and other dimensions contribute greatly to a culture of high efficiency within the warehouse.
Get help where you need it.
As we’ve covered in other articles, a third-party unloading company often makes sense for high-volume warehouses. When considering hiring temp labor or undergoing a massive capital campaign for a technology overhaul, consider whether there are savings to be had in contracting a reliable partner for warehouse management. We’re always available to discuss the unique challenges in your warehouse.