Tips for Increasing Warehouse Productivity

Improving efficiency in the warehouse is critical to meeting current consumer trends, which are being driven by e-commerce and home delivery of groceries.

Improving efficiency in the warehouse is critical to meeting current consumer trends, which are being driven by e-commerce and home delivery of groceries. Warehouse productivity is affected by the type, size, and variety of materials being moved in the warehouse to meet these demands. While changes to these factors over time may increase or decrease performance, the one absolute affecting productivity is optimizing routine processes. Using mobile weighing technologies to reduce truck time at the dock (turn-over) can have one of the greatest effects on a company’s key performance indicators (KPIs).

Improving warehouse efficiencies critical for e-commerce and expansion of home delivery

According to a report on industrial trends developed by JLL, a professional services firm that specializes in real estate and investment management, e-commerce and its related logistics companies are looking to accelerate their investment in “last-mile” warehouse spaces in a bid to narrow the gap with brick and mortar stores. Global and domestic tenants are expanding their presence beyond a single mega-warehouse facility to multiple U.S. nodes, using logistics space to extend their reach to connect with customers. The logistics, distribution and third-party logistics (3PL) sectors that serve many retailers and e-commerce companies represented 24 percent of total leasing activity in the first quarter of 2017. [1]

“Online shopping and consumer demand for rapid delivery is changing what, where and how many distribution centers are needed to feed the consumer e-commerce beast. E-commerce continues to be the fastest-growing sector. In the third quarter alone, nearly 25 percent of total U.S. leasing demand came from e-commerce companies expanding their existing market footprints.” [2]

To meet the demand resulting from these trends, operators must step up to the plate and develop ways to improve warehouse efficiency and productivity.

Varied processes show the importance of warehouse productivity

Several routine processes affect warehouse productivity. These include order picking, trailer and truck loading, and receiving verification.

Order picking and packing – Order picking and packing is frequently the most expensive and complicated warehouse process. Timing and accuracy play a key role in successfully filling an order. These factors have a direct effect on picking labor costs and orders picked per hour metrics. Reducing time to complete a process/order is directly tied to customer satisfaction.

Trailer/truck loading – Getting a trailer loaded quickly and correctly improves cycle times and door turn-over. Quicker loading increases the quantity of units processed and reduces costs associated with wait times and reloads.

Receiving verification – Verifying weight and recording each load when it is received reduces receiving errors and provides a way of immediately addressing any errors. In addition, knowledge of incoming materials provides transparency for proper inventories and stock levels so orders are filled quickly and accurately.

Scale products increase productivity for warehouse applications

Scale products play a huge role in increasing productivity. For example, mobile forklift scales increase the on-time delivery percentage and number of orders per hour, while counting scales improve order accuracy percentage and increase the lines picked. Pallet jack scales reduce the cost per order. All in all, the right scale products help operators achieve overall equipment efficiencies. They will result in a reduction of overtime hours and cost-per-unit (CPU), and improvements in the units-per-hour (UPH). Labor utilization in general can be greatly improved.

Top tips for increasing warehouse productivity

Purchase equipment that can be utilized in multiple areas

By purchasing equipment that can be used in a variety of areas with a variety of processes, the cost of doing business will be reduced.

Reduce unnecessary motion/travel

Reducing cycle times and turns happens only after driving out inefficiencies. Equipment that allows operators to collect information quickly without unnecessary motion or travel will improve the process.

Drive out human error with technology

Look for methods and equipment that reduce human interpretation. Scanning of barcodes, sharing information over the network, and combining information from several processes are ways to improve.

Improve staff training

Technology can improve any organization if the people are properly trained to the process and operate the equipment. Train, train, and train again, to get the best return on one of your biggest investments – people.

Ensure good communication

Communication is critical in human interaction. It is also vitally important in processing information within the warehouse environment. Equipment that shares mission critical data through Bluetooth or Wi-Fi quickly shares information with billing and tracking systems and will improve warehouse operations.

Keep an eye on new procedures or technologies

Always look to implement new procedures and look to modern technologies – or different ways of applying old ones – to save both time and effort in daily warehouse operations. Focusing on continued improvement will improve the overall performance and lower the overall labor cost.

Measure performance 

Make sure operations capture and manage critical KPIs. Understand and track critical productivity and costs on shipped orders, cost per box, and cost per line shipped. It is essential to measure and understand baseline information to be able to assess and put in place cost reduction measures. In short, you cannot improve if you do not measure!

Metrics illustrating relationship between warehouse productivity and profit

There is a clear relationship between warehouse productivity and profit. A medium size company with 40,000 pallet movements a year, in which 12,400 pallet movements require weighing, can save 3 minutes per weighment using a mobile fork scale compared to moving the load to a typical floor scale location. This saves the company approximately 37,200 minutes, or 620 man-hours. At an average warehouse rate of $35 per hour, the company could achieve a yearly cost savings of $21,700 ($1,808 per month). If one considers the cost of a mobile fork scale (including maintenance costs) the profitability gain would be more than $13,000 per year.

Warehouses can realize time savings per weighment by using mobile fork scales

Fairbanks customers have realized a time savings per weighment utilizing the Fairbanks BlueLine WF Series fork scale on their forklifts. The weigh forks are completely wireless and use a rechargeable battery pack that works independently of the forklift. This savings was based on the time it took to drive a load to their floor scale and back to the trailer to be loaded compared to weighing immediately at the staging location. Trailers that previously took 3 hours or more to load were loaded in just over 1.5 hours. This substantial improvement in trailer loading times also reduced traffic back and forth from the scale, which in turn reduced dock congestion.

Look to mobile weighing devices to improve efficiency

Incorporating a weighing device into forklifts is an excellent way to reduce excess travel time to and from a traditional floor scale, thus allowing tasks to be completed more quickly.


[1] JLL, Industrial market starts 2017 on a positive note, 2017,, retrieved 4/23/18.

[2] JLL, Industrial real estate expected to soar in 2018, 20 December, 2017, retrieved 3/19/18.

Mobile Robotics In The Warehouse

The concept of mobile robotics is not a new one. From Grey Walter’s Tortoises to Shakey the Robot, scientists have been working for years to automate processes and alleviate hard labor on humans. While these older mobile robotics were technologically restricted to follow a path from point A to point B, today’s robots are becoming more and more advanced and more likely to replace human labor.

Photo of mobile robots in warehouse

I Think. Therefore I Work.

Autonomy is quickly making its presence known in the warehouse, converting guidance-reliant mobile robotics into thinking—pardon the pun—machines. Unlike their mechanical predecessors, autonomous mobile robots need little to no oversight to complete their tasks with a high degree of quality. Once their parameters are defined—say, the length and width of a warehouse—and orders are coded into their operating system, these brilliant robots can work almost as independently as their human counterparts.

Consider the arguable frontrunner in the autonomous mobile robotic race: Kiva. You may, however, recognize the darling of the robotics industry by a slightly different name, post-acquisition:Amazon Robotics. Known primarily for their ubiquitous little orange bots, these small, hardworking units have become the face of robotic technology entering the walls of the warehouse. One of the bots’ most intriguing feature is the ability to move goods to a person vs. a person to the goods. Not only do these robots “learn” where items are from an in-house database, but they can also retrieve and carry the items to a picking station for fast, efficient integration with human “coworkers.”

Gear versus Man

While robots may take over some warehouse jobs as time and technology progress, for now, they are just learning how to work alongside their flesh-and-blood peers. Vision-guided vehicles, or VGV’s, are learning how to interact with and avoid humans on the warehouse floor. Every time a VGV senses a human or object in its path, it will slow down or stop and evaluate its next possible moves. This technology is important to have dynamic performance regardless of how crowded or empty aisles are.

To facilitate collaboration and adoption, manufacturers have also made their robots adept and user-friendly when it comes to human and fellow robot interaction: after all, the end goal remains the same for human and robot alike—a safe and successful work environment.

Beyond working alongside humans in the warehouse, robots also need to fit snugly into a subservient role for the easiest adoption experience. Workers are less likely to be fearful or suspicious of machines that help them do their job, rather than replace them—that’s why tech like the follow me robot goes a long way. Similar to the very popular follow me luggage concept, these robots respond to a chip, card, or other small beacon held by the operator, following in his or her footsteps to act as a sort of mobile workstation, or even as a fetch-and-retrieve helper. In a warehouse situation, this type of functionality helps make the most out of square footage and cuts back on the need for larger, bulkier equipment like forklifts or more costly fixed infrastructure like conveyors.

A Wrench in the Works

Much like any revolutionary innovations in manufacturing and warehousing, mobile robotics is not a silver bullet. Some companies have jumped in feet first into this delicate endeavor, only to become frustrated and tear out the new infrastructure shortly after. Overly-cautious bots can end up wasting more time than saving it, particularly if preparations and considerations weren’t made for company needs beforehand.

Regarding physical limitations, while mobile robotics handle flat floors without breaking a sweat, vertical stacking and retrieving of unstable products on high shelves is another matter. Being able to compensate for all the real world imperfections is something engineers have had a challenging time with for several years and a task that still seems better suited to humans—at least for now.

Another area that is still evolving is in fine dexterity. The limited body of a bot is filled with battery power, the mechanisms that allow it to recognize shelf spaces and objects visually, and the drive that powers the ability to actually grasp an item. Unfortunately, even when set to a solid middle ground of pressure, delicate items can still be accidentally crushed, and heavy items can slip out of the grasping mechanisms. Visual recognition programs also struggle to calculate depth, particularly on dense warehouse shelves.

What Will These AI Advances Mean For You?

If you’re considering adding mobile robotics of the guided or autonomous variety to your warehouse, you’ll need to do a little due diligence first.

  • Will the robot fit well into your warehouse? It’s not always a question of having space for a charging station. You’ll need to carefully determine if your new bot will integrate with your existing systems and warehouse floor plan layout.
  • How well will the robot integrate into your current systems? It’s important to evaluate the cost of having to upgrade or change systems with this new technology.
  • Who will be responsible for the robot? From periodic diagnostics to troubleshooting and “parking” in off hours, make sure you have an employee designated to manage and repair the robotic unit or units.
  • Is the robot going to help or hurt the current flow of your warehouse? Be sure this new technology is creating a process flow instead of a process flaw.
  • How will your staff respond? Will they be concerned the robot is going to replace their jobs, or will they commit to finding new, more efficient ways to work alongside it?

To Sum It Up

As long as you can answer these questions honestly and positively, you’re on the right track for adding mobile robotics to your warehouse workflows. At the Kenco Innovation Lab, we’re working with these robotics — and a variety of other incredible tech tools — to make business easier for all of our customers. To learn more, download our New Supply Chain Innovation Technology eBook.

6 Tips for Improving Warehouse Efficiency!

Things can always be faster when you work in a warehouse or distribution center. Speed has become the name of the game when it comes to staying competitive in the global supply chain.

Major players like Amazon and Walmart have distribution centers all over the world, pumping out packages at lightning speed.

If you want to keep your customers satisfied, you need to keep things moving in your warehouse or distribution center. Use these tips to keep up the pace and make your facility as efficient as possible.

1. Keep Your Warehouse Organized

Nothing stymies operational efficiency like a poorly-organized warehouse. Your facility should have a thoroughly thought-out floor plan that your employees can navigate with ease. The space should be organized so that your staff members can access products and packages without getting in each other’s way.

Warehouse Efficiency

Your employees may need to process different orders simultaneously, so they should have plenty of space to avoid stepping on each other’s toes. Today’s warehouses are much larger than they were in the past .

Items should be clearly labeled on the shelf and organized in a way that makes sense for your facility. You can group packages by their contents, destination or point of origin. This layout should make sense to your employees, so they’ll be able to find the items they need without having to look at a spreadsheet.

2. Prioritize Fast-Moving Products

Keep your priorities in mind when organizing your warehouse. Every element of your chosen layout should favor your fastest-moving products. Bestsellers don’t tend to sit on the shelf for very long, so make sure your employees can easily retrieve them at all times.

Your employees shouldn’t have to go all the way to the back just to retrieve a product, especially if it’s one of your most popular items. You can help everyone save time by moving these fast-selling products to the front of your warehouse. They should be kept low to the ground and close to the loading dock.

Your entire warehouse layout should focus on moving better-performing products to the front while keeping the less popular products at the back. Go over your inventory and rate your products based on how often your employees need to retrieve them. This should inform your thinking as you change the layout of your facility.

3. Automate the Data Collection Process

Running a warehouse these days is all about data. Digital technology can take the guesswork out of inventory and warehouse management with employees scanning products every step of the way. Your facility should collect as much data on your products as possible, including where they’re coming from, when they arrive, what condition they are in, where they’re going and when they’re set to leave.

You can use this data to keep tabs on the location of your products. At any given moment, you’ll know exactly how many products are being stored at your facility.

But in order to improve warehouse efficiency, you need to automate the data collection process as much as possible. Your staff members should automatically retrieve this data as they go about unloading and scanning items that have just arrived at the facility and getting them ready for the last leg of their journey. You can use handheld scanners and radio frequency identification tags to simplify this process. Automating data collection also reduces costly errors like inaccurate data entry.

Warehouse automation technology is already a $1.9 billion industry, and it’s expected to balloon to $22 billion by the year 2021 . If you want to stay competitive, it might be time to invest in automation. You’ll have all the information you need at your fingertips without adding any additional steps to your operations.

4. Use Inventory Management Software

As you collect all this data on the shipping containers  and products moving in and out of your facility, you can save time by sending that info right to your company’s inventory management software. This technology helps you make sense of all the data in a matter of seconds.

You can quickly see how many products are on the shelf, when shipments need to go out and when new shipments are due to arrive. Software programs are synced to your data collection devices, so you won’t have to worry about entering that information twice.

Certain artificially intelligent software programs can even help you anticipate future outcomes like inventory shortages, delivery delays and other potential problems. They keep a log of the history of your facility’s operations to help better predict what’s going to happen in the future.

5. Save Time with Cross Docking

If you have fast-moving products coming through the door, you can save time with what’s known as cross-docking. Instead of putting these products back on the shelf only to have your employees retrieve them hours later, direct them to a temporary staging area for scanning and inventory purposes.

This temporary staging area should be close to the loading dock. When the products are ready for the next leg of their trip, your employees can quickly retrieve them and get them out the door without having to look for them on the shelf.

6. Increase Visibility with Better Lighting

The key to warehouse efficiency isn’t always as complicated as it seems. Sometimes all you need is better lighting. Warehouses tend to have tall ceilings, and lighting the space, including all those individual shelves, can be a challenge.

Warehouse efficiency

If you want to speed up your warehouse operations, everyone should be able to see clearly as they go about their business. Staff members should be able to read labels and use containers without having to squint. Keeping the lights on also helps your employees stay awake, especially if they’re getting a shipment ready in the middle of the night.

Working Towards Warehouse Efficiency

Making your warehouse more efficient starts with having the right layout in place. Your products should be organized according to their popularity. You should automatically collect data on your products as soon as they enter the facility.

And always make sure your employees have enough space and light to do their jobs. Follow these steps and you’ll get orders out the door in record time.

6 Tips for Maximizing Efficiency and Productivity of Warehouse Operations

CONTRIBUTION BY KEVIN HILL – Online Marketing Manager at Quality Scales Unlimited

As a warehouse manager, you would understand that handling warehouse operations are a massive task. One small mistake may affect the efficiency and productivity of the warehouse. You must continually implement measures to optimize various warehouse processes and improve the overall effectiveness of the operations involved. Apart from minimizing downtime and increasing productivity, it is essential to improve your supply chain. Let us look at a few tips that help in achieving the same.

(1) Reduce Travel Time
Travel time in warehouse refers to the amount of time that is spent on walking or moving between the slots or different stations. Time taken for picking tickets, packaging and shipping affects overall productivity. One way to reduce travel time is by optimizing the in-warehouse routes and unnecessary legs in order picking.

(2) Implement Weighing Scales
Warehouse weighing scales can greatly improve productivity in your facility. For example, by using forklift scales, you can lift, weigh, move and record loads in a single operation. Since they have electronic sensors, they can weigh theloads accurately. The weighing scales are made of durable materials and have no springs or hydraulics, which ensure that they can withstand harsh conditions and jolts without interfering with their accuracy. Integrating weighing scales into different warehouse operations helps you improve the accuracy of shipping and billing as well.

(3) ImplementTraining Programs
Training programs help your staff identify various opportunities where efficiency can be increased. Remember that training is not a one-time thing but rather an on-going process. Train your employees to tackle various warehouse issues at the beginning itself. Encourage them to generate regular reviews, reports and stay abreast of the latest technology. The training program must also include a thorough review of all programs or incentives offered.

(4) Maintain Real-Time Inventory Visibility and Management
You must leverage technology to provide real-time inventory visibility and management. Since real-time inventory tracking considers averages and variations in orders, you will be better equipped to handle any sudden changes in throughput.

(5) Schedule Regular Maintenance of Equipment
Maintenance of equipment is essential to ensure its smooth running. You must have a maintenance plan which ensures that the essential machinery is serviced at regular intervals. When the machine is well-serviced, it will its prevent complete failure as you would identify a potential problem during the maintenance checks itself. Another benefit of regular maintenance is increased efficiency as the operations will run smoothly, without downtime caused due to the breakdown of machinery. Regular maintenance helps in detecting and identifying problems before they become big and cost you time and money.

(6) ImplementLean Warehouse Techniques
Implementing lean warehouse practices will improve manufacturing processes, lower overall costs and enable more efficient and quicker production. Lean production techniques help in creating a culture of continuous improvement, employee empowerment, and waste minimization. Additionally, they help in improvingquality, cost, service, and delivery.

Lastly, embrace automation. Not only will it help you achieve greater warehouse productivity, but also drive significant cost savings. Implementing floor scales for weighing will increase the accuracy and efficiency of the warehouse processes.