I suppose it’s inevitable with age. Everything starts to fall apart eventually and it is amazing how it creeps up on you. You remember giggling silently when someone of a certain age walked in to a room and could not remember why or what they are supposed to be doing. I do this and like millions of others I have to return from whence I came to try and remember why I purposely strode into another room.
Packing for business travel used to be automatic and everything that was required was found and packed without resorting to lists. Recently I have found myself in Africa without toothbrush and paste but that was soon remedied via a hotel vending machine. I was not so lucky on arriving in Cyprus to find I did not have any undies. You try finding them in a budget hotel vending machine!
Now let us look at warehousing. A project to design, build and open a new warehouse is usually large and complicated but at least it is an indication something is going well in the business. Assuming the facility is built on time and to specification and all legal matters are in hand, here are some important aspects you need to remember in order to bring the warehouse on stream smoothly.
A suitably qualified and experienced person should be leading the project and one of the key tasks is to maintain a very detailed network. The network should be widely available and routinely updated to ensure potential issues are flagged up in real time. You do not need expensive software to do this but you do need rigorous project management discipline.
Every role should have a job description including the oft forgotten pallet repairer. Unless you are about to run an innovative warehouse you will have no trouble finding good job description templates on the internet. Once adjusted to suit your particular circumstance you need to ensure suitable role segregation has been defined.
Do not wait until the last minute to recruit staff. Get them in as early as you can so you are able to see how they operate against job descriptions and them working in teams. Companies frequently leave this too late thus placing training and commissioning in jeopardy. If you are transferring staff from an existing warehouse to a new facility you must ensure a controlled transition. An army of people turning up for work on a Monday morning in a new warehouse will not work.
Untrained people are dangerous and particularly in a warehouse situation if you are using narrow aisle high reach FLT’s. All employees require formal and documented training in their particular area before they are set loose in the warehouse. Do not skimp on training for specialist roles, e.g. for high reach truck training you need certified training by the supplier directly.
Before you open for business you need to systematically test all your equipment to verify that it operates to desired specifications. You do not need a warehouse full of goods to do this and you should use this exercise to iron out any glitches.
Now you do the same but under realistic conditions moving finished goods. Generate some test inbound receipts and customer orders. Go through the motions of the actual operation without running the risk of disappointing customers or injuring employees. Attempt to operate at high capacity so your process is well tested.
However well you have prepared it is highly unlikely you will be at 100% logistical efficiency immediately. Set targets which see acceptable efficiency achieved within a reasonable time frame and display the plan widely so everyone is singing from the same hymn sheet.
IT & Comms
Do the telephones work? Is the IT network in place and accessible? Do the hand-held scanners communicate correctly and from all areas of the warehouse? Has the ERP been tested and tested and tested again?
A key part of the preparation phase is the receipt of stocks as if these are not counted and booked accurately you will soon be in trouble. Mass stock movements present opportunities for “shrinkage” and make no mistake somewhere along the line someone will be looking to exploit this discontinuity.
Suppliers and customers need to know what you are doing and not least as the start up may pose them problems. With the ramp-up plan in mind you should make sure your suppliers and customers know what to expect and when you are capable of meeting their usual demands. They may not have much sympathy for you but being forewarned often helps to ease relationships into the new ways of working.
You will not get everything right and something always crops up to derail even the most well prepared, planned and activated project.
What will you forget? When I look at all the warehouse start-ups I have seen there is one item which is frequently missed. Remember to buy sufficient batteries to keep your FLT’s operating 24/7!