Efficient Warehouses Must Embrace the Basics

Focusing on delivering superior service to customers is always an order fulfillment center’s goal. 3PLs and 4PLs ensure that orders are filed correctly, delivered efficiently, on time, and in full.

And service must be completed without compromising product quality or safety. Many third- and fourth-party logistics companies are investing up to $1B in modernizing their distribution networks across the U.S. to maintain a modern fleet of tractors and multi-temp trailers.

Robots, Retrieval Systems, and RFID Scanners, Oh My!

The newest facilities use advanced technologies to improve efficiency, accuracy, and warehouse safety, reduce labor costs, and increase productivity.

Advancements at the forefront of this tech revolution are:

  • Conveyor systems
  • Automated guided vehicles
  • Automated storage and packaging
  • Sorting and retrieval systems
  • Pick-to-light systems
  • Voice-picking systems to direct workers to the correct products and locations
  • Barcode and RFID scanners to track products
  • Robotics to palletize/depalletize, load/unload trucks, pick and pack, and complete other repetitive tasks

In addition to helping workers with repetitive tasks and organization, modern facilities also feature the latest energy-saving refrigeration equipment, LED lighting, and insulation.

Watch how the McLane Ozark Distribution Center has transformed into a technology hub using robotics and artificial intelligence.

Never Losing Site of Sustainability

To remain as sustainable as possible, warehouses typically have all refrigerated truck trailers connected to the electric grid, avoiding using fossil fuels while maintaining product temperatures during loading.

Many warehouses also deploy a new heavy-duty zero-emission electric truck yard to reduce environmental impacts.  

In addition to a new fleet of tractor-trailers with aerodynamic technology, modern 3PLs and 4PLs are using this technology to support their long-term sustainability goals of delivering products with lower emissions and improved MPG and fuel costs.

Boosting the 77% With Cleanliness

While facility leaders turn to technology to improve pick rates and throughput, they often overlook how cleaning and maintenance directly impact supply chain operations and profitability.

There is a 77% correlation between inventory turns and profits. And an unorganized and dirty warehouse puts a drain on efficiency. Do you really want to see a percentage under 70% here?

It only matters how much technology you use if your working environment is clean. The unfortunate result of a dirty and unorganized warehouse is impeded product movement, and reduced inventory turns. The faster you turn inventory, the better your profitability.

Bottom line: investing in tech is fantastic. But you MUST have a clean, safe operating environment for any tech to be efficient. Without a clean, organized, and safe environment, warehouse workers will:

  • Lose commitment to improving speed and efficiency
  • Experience unnecessary injuries and illnesses
  • Call out because no one wants to work in a dirty environment

Technology matters only if you have a consistently compliant environment

A nationwide food packager had a new janitorial company come on board to take care of its distribution centers. They lost millions of dollars and precious time, and the food packager unwittingly risked its reputation because the new janitorial company treated all its client’s distribution centers the same.

In this case, one warehouse required special attention due to its cold storage. Unfortunately, the food packager suddenly had FDA violations on their hands. The janitorial company lacked multi-site knowledge and treated all locations the same.

The food packager faced a massive shutdown and could not serve large brands in its portfolio, like Wendy’s and other fast-food restaurants.  

Facility management companies must approach each locale as a unique entity, and some buildings under the same company require very different approaches. And this is imperative.

Read more stories of how your supply chain facilities can be a detriment to your operations.

Increasing supply chain facility efficiency starts with creating an organized environment.

“I believe that if you walk into a facility and it’s dirty, workers realize we’re not organized. The people who are working there don’t feel obligated to do anything more than what they’ve already seen. They become unmotivated and uncommitted to the company’s vision of providing outstanding service performance to customers. When [employees] walk into a facility and [they see] it’s clean, it’s organized, and there are no issues, they tend to keep it that way, and they perform their jobs. Productivity significantly increases, which keeps our customers happy." — Matthew Kolenda, National Project Manager, Jillamy —a Mode Transportation agency

While exploring new ways of increasing efficiency, look beyond automation technology and robotics. The basics, like facility organization, management, maintenance, and operations, are still pivotal and key.

At OpenWorks, we’re more than a provider; we’re a partner. We align with your business and building’s goals to share your same high standards with a careful, conscientious approach. Our work comes from two decades of experience with multi-site warehouses with unique needs. Get a no-obligation quote from one of our FM professionals today. 

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