Distribution centers operate fast. You have to be in the know on all movements happening on the floor, as well as all plans scheduled for the day. Forgetfulness can lead to delayed shipments, staffing issues, overlooked details, and many other potential issues. But as an employee at a distribution center, you don’t need to know this – you need solutions on how you can improve operations on the floor to create a faster, more lean, more productive, and ultimately more profitable business. Below are 7 distribution center tactics that you can implement today to improve your company.
Distribution Center Tactics to Implement Today
1. Encourage Whistleblowing
While “give trust and receive trust” is a great life motto to live by, the truth is that even the most trusted employees can be caught red handed on the job. In fact, research indicated that 82% of employees have confessed to stealing from their work environments in some way. Just because you trust your employees doesn’t mean you’re not allowed to verify that trust and keep them accountable. Encourage whistleblowers in the instance of observed theft.
2. Interview Your Current Vendors to Learn
It makes perfect logical sense. You have vendors so you can outsource certain operations that they are more efficient at executing. What better person to learn from than a business partner who is more equipped and prepared for a particular task than you? Call or email your vendors and ask them for recommendations in whatever areas you want to learn more about. You may have equipment that you are not using to its fullest potential, or employees who have been assigned to inefficient tasks. There’s nothing that can hurt from a conversation with your vendors. In fact, they may unravel an entirely different set up distribution center tactics that you can implement.
3. Integrate New Technology Into Your Business
Ok, so maybe this isn’t a “today” type deal. But there’s certainly no reason you need to wait longer than a day to start looking. For distribution centers in particular, there is a breadth of new technology available that can help to improve operations. TMS software, tracking and tracing technologies, and automated inbound freight management solutions can all be found in a myriad of places. Look for new technology, talk to potential vendors, and start searching for solutions. You may be surprised by what you find. Which ties into the next one of our distribution center tactics…
4. Focus on Automating Data Collection
Paper ledgers and notebooks have been outdated for years at this point. Continuing to collect data on data sources that can be tampered with, lost, or manually screwed up is a bad idea in today’s fast-paced distribution environment. A good distribution center tactic is to automate your data collection. Software companies have developed tools to automate inventory tracking and even fulfill ordering and restocking automatically when supplies run low.
5. Spend More Time on Your Reverse Logistics
Tracking how much inventory leaves your docks isn’t enough. It’s important to closely watch what comes back through the doors. Spending time tracking your reverse logistics costs and amounts can guide you in making smarter decisions about sourcing materials, refurbishing, and reselling items to still make a profit on returned goods.
6. Don’t Leave Inventory Count to “Inventory Day”
Make inventory count a continuous task. Taking inventory only periodically means you are only seeing one number over a large span of time. Continuous inventory cycles can help your company to track how sales, purchasing, and returns are doing at every time during the year. Peak seasons and other factors can all contribute quick spikes or dips in sales and throw off inventory levels. Taking inventory every couple of months simply doesn’t provide enough insight to give useful data. Make sure you understand item fill rates (IFR’s) and proper inventory management. Proper inventory management will have a direct affect on your business’s customer service levels.
7. Consolidate Multi-Part Deliveries
Many distribution centers separate multi-part deliveries and therefore experience the hassle of leftover inventory spending more time than it needs to at the warehouse. Furthermore, this looks bad on customer service levels since customers are not able to begin the assembly process until all parts have arrived. A good distribution center tactic is to focus on reorganizing your consolidation methods to always prioritize the consolidation of multi-part deliveries. It clears up floor space, improves efficiency, drives down cost, and improves customer service levels.
Where to Go from Here
There is always a better way to do the same task – the level at which you operate will be dependent upon your company’s budget and drive to execute. Solutions don’t have to be expensive or immediately implemented but executing these distribution center tactics one at a time can help to improve your floor efficiency and company’s operations. If you are curious about these distribution center tactics and would like to hear more recommendations from our staff on how your distribution center can operate efficiently, give one of our team members a call! We would be excited to talk with you!