Want to increase profit and succeed with your ecommerce business?
Business success means superior customer service and efficiency. You need to ship on time, get the right product in the hands of the customer quickly, and eliminate the added costs that can accumulate in operations. You need to constantly optimize and improve operations.
One area that many ecommerce businesses have targeted as an opportunity for improvement is warehouse and inventory operations. Many companies have begun evaluating and optimizing their warehouse numbering system and are already seeing cost savings and improved results.
What Is a Warehouse Numbering Strategy?
The warehouse numbering strategy is the location identification system a warehouse uses to organize and manage the warehouse. It should support rapid and accurate item retrieval.
The location numbering should be as specific as possible, marking the elements that designate a storage location. At a glance, a team member should be able to know where a specific item is located. The more information you can provide in the number, without confusion, the better.
The warehouse numbering system is a critical support for operations. Any improvement to the numbering system or strategy can pay dividends with every order.
Tips for an Accurate and Efficient Warehouse
Every warehouse numbering system starts with a strategy. That doesn’t mean it’s the right strategy. Don’t be scared to scrap past strategies that aren’t working. The same goes for the other elements of your warehouse and inventory system. Just because it’s been in place for years doesn’t mean it’s not costing you time, money and efficiency.
Look at the layout of the warehouse and consider how the team will be retrieving and navigating the facility. You need a consistent language in the numbering system for communicating locations and areas in the warehouse. Typically, there will be:
- Zones: Describing larger locations in the warehouse, like dry storage, receiving, cold storage and more. Zones often designate use case for the area.
- Aisles: Within zones are identifiable aisles. Keep in mind as you’re planning that you should account for growth and change. Leave gaps for flexibility in the identification system.
- Bays: Like aisle identification, bays should also accommodate growth and change. Many warehouses will use an additional signifier in the bay numbering (like even and odd numbers) for rapid retrieval.
- Levels: Typically using shelves on racks, many warehouses will keep fast moving items on lower levels. Items marked in the lower levels may have additional identification to help with faster retrieval.
- Slots: Designating areas on a shelf, warehouses will typically limit the range of these numbers for easier use. Keep in mind, providing space in the warehouse numbering system will allow for flexibility.
Your warehouse may use different terms, but they typically correlate to the system above. As you develop your system, make sure to get input and feedback from your warehouse team on what they need. They probably have a good idea what works and what doesn’t. That’s valuable insight.
Select the Right Tools
Often, an adjustment in the tools you use in the warehouse can unlock efficiencies in every phase of your business. Evaluate the following areas:
- Labels: Remember, not all labels are created equal. Selecting the right label can improve efficiency and accuracy. You need a label that provides enough space for the information. It needs to be easy to use and quick to apply. Also consider how it will be used — for example, cold storage can be brutal on labels with the wrong adhesive.
- Graphics and Signage: Accurate communication is critical to efficient warehouse operations. That means using effective graphics and signage in the warehouse. Are graphics in visible locations? Are they delivering the message you need? Does your team find them easy to use? How quickly can a new team member get up to speed? Signage needs to work toward accurate and efficient item retrieval. Look at vertical signs, signage on the floor, or even LED signs.
- Barcode and RFID Tools: You may not be able to get all the information you need on a single printed label. A barcode on a label, or an RFID chip, can link a physical object to additional information. RFID can accelerate audits, and a barcode scanner and label can help maintain inventory levels. With the right tools, you can greatly increase productivity and accuracy.
Make sure to review what tools you are using and adjust as necessary. A single change may be all you need to unlock additional efficiencies and revenue.
Focus on Product Retrieval
As you work on your assessment and evaluation, you’ll have many decisions to make. Are you using the right label? Can you improve the identification system? Is a planned change worth the effort and retraining?
The goal of any warehouse numbering system is product retrieval. The faster and more accurately you can retrieve and then ship an item, the more successful your business will be. This should be the criteria for any change. If it improves product retrieval — eliminating mistakes and errors while saving shipping time — then it is a worthwhile change. Keep in mind, even a change that saves a few seconds on product retrieval will quickly add up for your business.
Support Your Strategy
You can build the best strategy in the world during planning, but if your warehouse team isn’t following the strategy, then it’s not working. You need to ensure buy-in from the team before implementation. If they can provide input during the planning process, they’ll be more committed to the success of the strategy.
Once it’s implemented, provide regular training. Create an onboarding process for new workers, and schedule time for a refresher course for longtime employees. Use signage to support your strategy. Leave a sign in the break room that goes over the strategy. Incorporate the strategy in uniforms or T-shirts. Little reminders can make a big difference in supporting your strategy.
Evaluate and Improve
No amount of planning can cover every situation that occurs in the warehouse. Products constantly change, and the buying habits of the public and customers are fickle. Creating a process for regularly evaluating your strategy is critical for consistent improvement. That evaluation can identify challenges and issues before they impact the business and provide an opportunity for a solution.
Continue to solicit feedback from team members. Keep the lines of communication open and provide feedback as needed. The goal for everyone should be to strengthen the business, so make sure everyone has a stake in the process.
Making the Most of Warehouse Numbering
As you improve your inventory and warehouse numbering system, you’ll see benefits in every phase of the business. Increased accuracy will improve customer satisfaction. Improved efficiency will reduce costs and increase shipping velocity. Team members will appreciate work improvements, and management will enjoy labor savings.
Contact GO2 Partners if you’d like to review your warehouse numbering system or need help with optimizing operations. We work with many of the largest and most successful ecommerce businesses in the world. GO2 has been helping them improve operations with leading expertise and our experience with label and signage solutions.
Let us know how we can help you.