We have clients come to us wanting to implement a barcode solution in hopes that it will solve every problem they have in their warehouse. Unfortunately, barcoding isn’t a ‘be-all,end-all’ solution, but rather is the last step in a multi-step process and overall commitment to efficiency. Before you consider implementing a barcoding solution there are several steps you can take to get your warehouse in shape prior to automation. Get your warehouse to the level of efficiency you desire in the coming year by following these 3 steps:

Step #1: 3 Ideas for Organizing & Maintaining Your Warehouse

More often than not, when we walk into a warehouse, we notice that nothing makes sense.From bin locations that increase workload to picking methods that aren’t appropriate for the industry, there are many ways in which a company’s efficiency is being decreased by their current processes. If you suspect that your processes aren’t at the level they should be, you may wish to:

Revisit Bin Location Organization
You should consider reviewing the overall organization of your warehouse annually in order to maintain maximum productivity. If you have been ‘stashing’ new items wherever they fit for the last several years it is likely you are now experiencing decreased productivity as a result. While it may seem like a hassle to re-organize everything, consider the amount of time you’ll save when you improve picking times.

A good rule of thumb when organizing your warehouse is to put higher volume items in the easier to reach areas as well as in a location closer to your shipping area (if it is appropriate to do so), and lower volume items in bin shelving further away.

Take a New Look at Picking Methods
Examine your picking methods and determine whether they are still appropriate for you.Keep in mind that there are many options to choose from including:

  • Single order
  • Multi-order
  • Batch picking
  • Zone picking
  • Etc.

Consider Implementing Cycle Counts
Cycle Counting is a great alternative or addition to a yearly physical count. It is a process with which you count inventory in regular intervals throughout the year which keeps your back-office systems more accurate than relying solely on an annual count. Many who implement cycle counting often find that they can eventually do away with the annual count altogether.
Sage MAS ERP requires you to freeze your inventory during counting, so many mistakenly believe that they can only do their counting if they shut down operations. However what you may not know is that you also have the ability to freeze only certain product lines at a time while keeping others active which allows you to implement a cycle counting technique.

There are two main types of cycle counting to choose from. You will want to choose whichever is more appropriate for your industry.

• Geographic based cycle counting involves starting at one side of your warehouse and systematically working your way to the other end. Doing this several times throughout the year will not only enable you to keep inventory numbers accurate throughout the year, but also discover misplaced or ‘lost’ items as well.

• The ABC Method refers to counting by the categorization of inventory. High volume items are handled more often resulting in a higher likelihood of inaccuracies, while low volume items are handled less leading to more accurate data. To implement the ABC Method you will first categorize all of your inventory deciding which fall into the ‘A’ (highvolume), ‘B’ (medium volume), and ‘C’ (low volume) levels. You’ll count high volume items more often and low volume items less. Your schedule may look something like this:

  • Level A – Count once per month –or- quarter depending on the size of the inventory
  • Level B – Count every quarter
  • Level C – Count every 6 months

In each instance, you’ll want to divide the stock up so that your staff can complete a portion of counting every day or week to keep it manageable.

Step #2: Implement Manual Processes and Increase Employee Accountability

We know that it can be very difficult to expect your warehouse staff to truly care about the company. Many see their jobs as just a paycheck and have little desire to put in more effort than necessary. However if you establish, communicate and enforce specific warehouse rules – you are more likely to get a bit more effort and a cleaner process. However, sometimes simple communication just isn’t enough. This is when you may consider implementing incentives. Like it or not, people are motivated by what’s in it for them.

Step #3: Implement Barcoding Automation

Before you implement, or even look at a barcoding solution, you should make sure Steps 1 and 2 are complete and running smoothly. Once you’ve properly organized your warehouse, implemented the best picking methods and cycle counting techniques for your industry, and established clear and disciplined manual systems – you are ready for barcoding to take you to the next and highest level of efficiency. Specifically, it will help you with:

  • Increasing the speed with which you can input information
  • Improving the integrity of your data
  • Developing greater accuracy of shipments
  • Enhancing employee productivity
  • And increasing the speed, efficiency and precision of your cycle / physical inventory counting process.

Contact us to learn more about implementing a barcoding solution in your warehouse.