Warehouse workers and robots can work in harmony

Robots and workers can come together in the warehouse.

Robots and workers can come together in the warehouse.

There has been a lot of talk over robotics being used in the warehouse and the effect they’ll have on jobs. However, humans are still needed for sorting inventory off the hand trucks and ensuring orders go to the right location. Robots can help automated certain processes that can be redundant for your human employees.

According to DC Velocity, the push for warehouse robotics is for them to complement the work that warehouse employees are already doing and working in tandem. The news provider reports that while there may be a lack in jobs in the far future, as robotics technology becomes more advanced and the machines are able to pick up more skills, they aren’t going away anytime soon.

CNN Technology reports warehouses across the country are looking to make their operations more efficient, which is where robots come in. The news provider gives the example of a machine picking out items from a warehouse shelf, while a human packs the inventory into a box to make sure the order is precise. There is little room for error in the delivery business, and having an employee on-hand to do quality control is critical for keeping customers happy and business running efficiently.

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Don’t let inventory size get in the way of shipping efficiency

Don't overpack to make up for an item's shape.

Don’t overpack to make up for an item’s shape.

In the world of material handling, it can be common to wheel inventory that’s of an odd shape on hand trucks out of the warehouse. However, while it may take some maneuvering when moving it with material handling equipment, shipping odd shaped items can be even more of a challenge both in terms of efficiency and cost.

According to Modern Materials Handling, companies are increasingly putting a focus on measuring and weighing uniquely shaped inventory in an effort to reduce shipping costs. Sometimes when an item has a shape that can’t easily mold to a box, companies can risk over packaging in an effort to compensate. However, this can not only drive weight of the shipment up, but it can also add to the overall costs. As a result, managers need to be aware of the different ways they can make packaging more efficient.

Particularly with e-commerce, shipping efficiency should be a focus for most warehouse managers. According to Multichannel Merchant, the majority of companies are still struggling with meeting the expectations for delivery. The news provider also reports that 73 percent of survey respondents said they’re more likely to order from a company where they’ve had a positive shipping experience, so it’s another way to generate brand loyalty.

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Keeping warehouse workers safe even in the summer months

Help reduce heat stress for your employees in the summer months.

Help reduce heat stress for your employees in the summer months.

Depending on where the warehouse is located in the summer, the temperatures can rise to uncomfortable levels for workers. It’s important that employees are not burned out by the summer heat while using hand trucks and other material handling equipment in the scorching temperatures, and managers can work to make sure there is relief throughout the work day.

DC Velocity recommends that managers take a look at the region’s heat indexes, which take both humidity and temperature into account, and set aside specific hydration breaks throughout the day depending on the level of the index. The news provider also says that to encourage workers to take hydration breaks, managers should set up extra water stations around the warehouse and continually check to make sure there is enough to go around. Hydration is key in preventing maladies such as heat stroke and fainting.

Buildings suggests there are structural improvements that can also be made to the warehouse to prevent the heat from overcoming workers. This includes checking for proper insulation and making sure all doors are properly sealed to keep hot air from coming in and sending your cooling system into overdrive. The news provider also suggests keeping first aid on hand if someone were to have an episode due to the heat.

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Warehouse demand grows in smaller markets

The warehouse real estate market is expanding.

The warehouse real estate market is expanding.

E-commerce has driven the retail industry to rethink its strategy on everything from location to warehouse needs. Where warehouse workers loaded up hand trucks filled with inventory even five years ago has changed dramatically. As companies are looking to capture market share and further attain customer delivery satisfaction.

According to DC Velocity, many e-commerce companies are driving warehouse managers to look to smaller markets such as Denver and Portland to set up their logistics. The news provider reports that this drive is in part due to businesses looking to ramp up their logistical efforts, and needing more space in different markets in order to do so. The news provider remarks that this is a change seen from even five years ago, when cities like Chicago and Los Angeles were in high demand for setting up warehouse space.

However, the construction industry is listening. According to the Wall Street Journal, warehouse space shortage is actually shrinking as new construction continues to make warehouse space available for the demand, despite the e-commerce industry showing no signs of slowing down. The news provider reports the market is becoming more balanced, leading to average rent growth that doesn’t have companies fleeing. As the sector continues to expand, it will be interesting to see what’s in store for warehouse trends in the years ahead.

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Lots of storefronts, not enough warehouses

Inventory is less concentrated on the backroom and back in the warehouse.

Inventory is less concentrated on the backroom and back in the warehouse.

The shift toward an e-commerce model has led many warehouse managers to rethink their logistics strategies. Gone are the days of moving so much inventory on hand trucks from warehouses to back rooms. Instead, the customer fulfillment is increasingly becoming warehouse right to the buyer’s front door.

However, this shift has led to some interesting trends in the real estate industry. According to CNBC, the country is finding itself with an abundance of malls, but not enough warehousing space to complement their e-commerce operations. As customers are reducing their foot traffic in favor of ordering something with the click of a mouse, suppliers are trying to ensure they have the resources to meet order fulfillment efficiently.

The news provider reports that it’s important not to mistake the decrease in foot traffic to a drop in retail. The rise of e-commerce has just changed the business model.

CNN reports that abandoned factories and warehouses have been some of the biggest drivers in the real estate market. The news provider reports this shift is due in part to companies moving their operations from overseas back stateside in an effort to meet customer demand in an efficient manner. As companies are competing on efficiency, having multiple warehouse hubs can help drive customer satisfaction.

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Robots and driverless vehicles are making their way to the warehouse.

In addition to equipment, robots are making things more efficient.

In addition to equipment, robots are making things more efficient.

Material handling equipment such as lifts and hand trucks can help move inventory in an efficient manner that keeps employees productive and reduces strain while on the job. However, many warehouse managers are looking to take equipment one step further and are exploring new technologies that can complement the human component to the job.

MIT Technology Review reports even though there is a lot of buzz around driverless vehicles making their way to the roads, warehouses are ramping up their efforts as part of their move toward robotics for improving efficiencies. The news provider reports that these machines are typically being used in delivering inventory for human workers to sort through manually. Because there needs to be a certain layer of quality control, it’s critical that humans stay a part of the sorting process to make sure the right goods get to where they need to be.

According to Forbes, there’s a major push for being as efficient as possible with the growth of e-commerce. Companies are competing for market share, and they need to make sure they’re fulfilling delivery promises to customers. As a result, many managers are looking into technological means for improving their time in customer fulfillment.

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Work for a stronger supplier partnership

Work to build stronger relationships with your supplier.

Work to build stronger relationships with your supplier.

How would you say your partnership is with your supplier? Aside from bringing in the materials on hand trucks into a warehouse, is there much collaboration in the overall strategy? If there isn’t, that’s the case for many.

According to Material Handling and Logistics, a new study found that while 43 percent of suppliers said they want to collaborate with their partners, they struggle to build a relationship that would fulfill that. Approximately 70 percent of respondents said that at least 50 percent of their partners aren’t open to collaboration.

In order to have an effective supply chain, you should try to partner every step of the way. This ensures that all parties are on the same place strategically.

IndustryWeek reports that having a stronger relationship leads to less risk in the supply chain operation and ultimately improves the overall success of the plan. The source suggests working together with all aspects within the manufacturing industry, from suppliers to delivery and everything in between in order to achieve excellence. By working together in a partnership that is mutually beneficial, sharing in decision-making and boosting overall collaboration won’t only boost your business, but also that of your partner’s. The source reports at the end of the day, true collaboration comes down to relationship building.

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Material handling equipment helps ease the strain

Equipment can help ease the physical burden.

Equipment can help ease the physical burden.

Materials have gotten heavier over time, and many employees are struggling to keep up with the weight of their jobs. Rather than risking injury on the job, managers must purchase material handling equipment such as hand trucks and lifts in an effort to help employees manage their inventory.

According to Modern Materials Handling, more companies are investing in material handling equipment and software in order to take the strain off employees’ backs, literally. Not only can this help keep a safe and happy workforce, but the news provider also reports that companies have experienced jumps in productivity as well. When employees are spending less time straining themselves in an effort to move heavy materials, they’re able to take on bigger burdens with the help of equipment and robotics. Additionally, the source points out that workers compensation costs are on the rise, so it’s even more critical to keep a safe workforce.

However, anytime an employee is handling material, whether by themselves or with the help of equipment, training is essential. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration reports that before any worker tries to move material, they need to go through the proper training in order to ensure they’re being safe while on the job. Managers should have a training program in place whenever a new employee is hired or someone’s role has switched.

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Be sure to have considerations when looking at suppliers

Look into not only the suppliers, but also their employee satisfaction.

Look into not only the suppliers, but also their employee satisfaction.

Looking for a supplier to partner with in a warehouse can bring a lot of challenges that managers may not expect. A supplier can make or break your warehouse’s reputation, so it’s important to do your homework and make sure the partnership is not only mutually beneficial economically, but also from a business perspective.

You can’t just bring in any team to transport goods on hand trucks, they need to be properly vetted. Supply and Demand Chain Executive reports you want to look at every report you can find – online or news reports. Also, by looking at their credit report, you can get a sense of whether they’re smart about running the business. The news provider also suggests asking the supplier’s employees about their overall satisfaction, if there is a high turnover, not only could this be a bad sign, but it could mean a drop in reliability in your own dealings.

CBS News reports a common oversight when choosing a supplier is thinking about the alignment. You’ve put in a lot of work into researching your suppliers – are they doing the same for you? The source reports if the supplier is taking the time to do their own research on whether the partnership can be beneficial, it means they’re going to extra step to make sure the relationship is an effective one.

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Don’t fall short when thinking about inventory management

Do you have an inventory management strategy?

Do you have an inventory management strategy?

When you bring in inventory into the warehouse on pallet trucks, do you have a sound distribution strategy? Sometimes warehouse managers can get caught up in efficiently putting inventory away without thinking about the best ways to manage it.

Multichannel Merchant reports you want to think about the organization of your staff and what makes the most sense. The source suggests focusing on skilled workers who have backgrounds in inventory management can bring better organization and can add to brainstorming when certain inventory isn’t selling as predicted.

Additionally, the source says you can improve inventory management by thinking of customer demand. Study trends in customer orders and allocate your inventory accordingly based on demand. For example, ordering more units of a popular product and placing it in an easy-to-distribute spot in the warehouse can help boost the efficiency of order fulfillment, benefiting both the customer and ultimately the business.

Entrepreneur also reports putting a better system in place for tracking the hottest items. The source recommends taking stock of the most popular inventory and marking the boxes with a specific color to make them easier to identify. This means you’ll be able to clearly see when is the best time to make a new order.

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