Quick Links: Institute a Receiving Department | Information Labels | Consider Photo Labels | Map It Out | Stack Smart | Store Your Product Logically | Invest in the Right Shelving | Leave Adequate Aisle Space | Re-Evaluate Your Options Frequently | Organize Warehouse Inventory Using Automation | Ensure Aisles Are Clear for Safety | Perform Regular Maintenance | Teach Staff How to Maintain Organization
A well-organized warehouse can boost your apparel business to new heights. When you know where everything is and how to get to it, you can fulfill orders more quickly and accurately, pleasing your customers in the process. You may even save money on labor because your workers will be more efficient when they need to find things, freeing them up to help out with other projects.
Stock organization is not always easy, though. You need a system that works for your items — not one that’s designed for another industry or doesn’t account for the special issues facing apparel manufacturers. We will cover some of the signs that indicate it’s time to organize your warehouse, plus offer nine tips for warehouse organization that apparel businesses can take advantage of.
Read on to learn how to organize your clothing inventory.
Signs You Need to Organize Your Warehouse
Is disorganization the central issue in your warehouse? It could be if you’re experiencing:
- Consistent order errors: Every warehouse will pack an incorrect order from time to time. If you notice a high error rate, or a particular error cropping up, it could be a sign of disorganization. If similar items are stored together, it’s easy to take one for the other. Another culprit could be incorrect or confusing bin labeling.
- Inventory shrinkage: When your inventory is stored haphazardly, it’s easy to lose track of where it is. It’s also easier for thieves to go unnoticed. Misplaced and stolen inventory are preventable with better organization.
- Wasted steps and time: The speed at which your team moves through the warehouse and packs orders is crucial. Unnecessary steps translate into less productivity and more ergonomic injuries. If your workers are always moving from one end of the warehouse to the other to store, pick and pack orders, the only remedy is a more logical layout.
- Messy warehouse: A lack of organization usually leads to indiscriminate inventory and equipment storage. Wires and tools in footpaths can lead to injuries, while clutter makes items harder to find. To keep things tidy, you need to ensure every item has a proper place.
The Benefits of Organizing Stock in Your Warehouse
Whether you’re experiencing issues or want to sharpen your edge, better organization is critical. Through better warehouse layouts and storage systems, you can gain:
- Increased efficiency: When you know exactly how much inventory you have and where it is, you save tons of time. You can reorder stock before it runs out to prevent shipping delays and fulfill more orders per hour.
- Better customer service: Your customers want their deliveries on-time, fast, in-full, and error-free. By taking the time to figure out where to store items, you can improve picking speeds. Inventory tracking can prevent out-of-stocks, which likewise leads to faster shipping. You can also reduce mistakes, meaning more deliveries are right the first time.
- Lower costs: Better organization leads to more visibility into your inventory. Knowing how many goods you have in stock can prevent team members from reordering items you already have. You’ll spend less overhead storing products you can move, reducing your storage costs.
- Enhanced accuracy: Better inventory tracking means you know what enters and leaves your warehouse and have an accurate count of your stock on hand. It makes it easier to prevent theft or shrinkage due to misplaced items.
- Improved safety: With better organization, your workers don’t have to move throughout the warehouse unnecessarily. This improvement leads to fewer muscle injuries and strains. Further, keeping walkways clear and storing popular items closer to the floor lowers the risk of trips and falls.
- Decreased stress: When it’s easy to find what you need, and you can do your job efficiently, you’re less stressed. Your workers and managers alike will feel the lifted burden that comes with better organization. That eased stress can translate into more productivity, better ideas and more confident leadership.
Tips for Organizing Warehouse Storage
It is essential to have a well-organized warehouse. We’ve compiled a list of warehouse organization ideas you can begin implementing today to get your facility in order. Use them to get your warehouse in shipshape and improve your customer service in the process:
1. Institute a Receiving Department
All new merchandise that comes into the warehouse should go to your receiving department to be logged in. To move inventory to stock as quickly as possible, you will want to ensure the receiving process is simple and intuitive. Customer service should be notified in real-time so customers can place orders for the new stock as quickly as possible.
The receiving department will also be in charge of correctly labeling new arrivals and acting as quality control. If an item isn’t up to snuff, your system should flag rejected products so the stock isn’t added to your warehouse inventory. Tracking irregulars and unsellable apparel as regular stock will cause problems later and lead to disorganization.
With the use of an automated system, the receiving department can direct the warehouse staff to put away stock in the proper location, with the correct equipment, in the most efficient route and manner.
2. Use Information
Upon arrival at your warehouse, every single item should be labeled, including these basic details:
- Item description
- Number of items the package contains
- Stock-keeping unit (SKU), if you use this system
- Size, if applicable
Your employees looking for items should be able to tell whether this is the item needed to fulfill an order without opening a box. Make the print on the labels large enough for everyone to read. Consider using a computerized system to do this, as not everyone’s handwriting is legible. You don’t want to be working under the assumption that you have 55 of an item when it’s actually 25.
3. Consider Photo Labels
Warehouses often find it helpful to place images of what’s inside a box on the outside. Employees will spend less time looking for, say, a blue sock when they see the image on the outside of the box rather than having to read every box to see what’s inside.
4. Map It Out
Every warehouse should have a key that explains what inventory has been stored where. You should keep this information electronically because it’s easy for a paper copy of your layout to get lost, torn or destroyed by an errant cup of coffee.
With an automated system, inventory is tracked from the moment it is received at the dock door, through every step of the warehousing system, until it is directed out the shipping door. This feature provides real-time access to one of your most important assets – your inventory.
5. Stack Smart
As a rule, most warehouses use vertical stacking for their products. This arrangement saves space and can also help you keep better organization because you can read all the labels at once instead of having to walk down the line of horizontally stacked materials.
You may find you occasionally need to make exceptions to this rule because of the way things are packed or arrive at the warehouse, and that’s fine. However, try to keep the rest of the stacking vertical.
6. Store Your Product Logically
Say you manufacture sports clothing. If you sell both softball jerseys and pants, it makes sense to store these things together since you’ll probably fulfill orders that include both products.
Apply this logic throughout your storage facility. Put like items together instead of using another system, such as storing alphabetically. This will save your warehouse employees unnecessary trips across the floor.
7. Invest in the Right Shelving
Sturdy shelving doesn’t come cheap, but the last thing you want to do is go with the least expensive and often least reliable option. If you go cheap, you may find you can’t store enough on your shelves. Or, even worse, the racks might buckle and damage your merchandise.
Research the best shelving units ahead of time and make sure they’ll fit in your warehouse. You may have to tape out the shelving dimensions before buying them just to make sure everything fits. It’s worth the time and effort to do this because it will save you other headaches in the long run.
8. Leave Adequate Aisle Space
Yes, you want to squeeze as much inventory into your warehouse as possible. And, remember that when you’re moving your products around, you need room to maneuver. If you’ve made the aisles too narrow by placing the shelving too close together, moving merchandise could take minutes instead of seconds.
Keeping the aisles themselves clean and open will also save you time and money. Your workers can trip and damage the inventory they’re transporting when items are left in the middle of an aisle. You may want to assign one person to aisle clean-up, so this crucial element is taken care of.
9. Reevaluate Your Options Frequently
Organization doesn’t happen in a vacuum, and many types of warehouse layouts exist for a reason. If you initially try one way of organizing your warehouse and merchandise and then realize it would be quicker to do it another way, make the change. Just as your apparel business grows and changes, so should your approach to warehouse storage.
Ask your warehouse staff for feedback, which has three great advantages:
- They work with the product every day and will have ideas on how to sort it better.
- They appreciate their opinions being solicited.
- They implement your decisions and can tell you whether an idea can work.
10. Ensure Aisles Are Clear for Safety
Implement a series of rules and guidelines for what can and cannot be left in each aisle, including disciplinary actions if ignored. Stress to employees that these changes are critical for ensuring a safe, speedy and efficient workplace for all:
- Safety: OSHA recommends keeping aisles clear of all clutter, cords, hoses, spills and similar hazards because they could lead to slipping, tripping, dropping and falling. Clear, spacious aisles leave plenty of room for machines, equipment and people to work their way through the picking process while reducing the likelihood of accidents. Aisle safety includes regular sweeping, mopping and drying to keep the floors free of residue and debris.
- Speed: The clearer the aisle space, the faster employees can navigate their way to shelves and around corners for inventory identification and retrieval.
- Efficiency: When unnecessary equipment, debris or employees are in the aisle, they take space from the equipment and workers needing to access those areas. This inevitably leads to a reduction in picking time, which impacts and slows every other area of operation.
11. Perform Regular Maintenance
Regular maintenance ensures your equipment and machinery are operating well, helping you avoid potentially costly breakdowns, operation delays and safety hazards. Slower, ill-maintained machines cut into your team’s productivity, reducing morale and limiting your warehouse from reaching its full potential.
Types of maintenance include:
- Preventive: Implement preventive maintenance for everything in your warehouse according to manufacturer instructions. Professional preventive care can help you catch operational warning signs before they grow into more expensive or dangerous repairs later.
- Upkeep: Regular upkeep varies across equipment types but may include changing oil, using recommended fuel and parts, replacing worn tires or conveyor belts, removing grime and buildup and lubricating moving components.
- Repairs: Repair broken equipment as soon as it’s reported. Never let damaged or malfunctioning equipment back onto the floor. Replacement could be as simple as investing in new tires or recharging a dead battery, or as complex as an engine replacement or whole-system repair.
- Replacements: Sometimes, replacing a piece of equipment instead of repairing it is the safest and most economically sound decision. If your machine is past its prime, frequently needs repairs or no longer meets your warehouse’s current demands, it’s time to replace it.
- Upgrades: Upgrades are usually optional parts of maintenance but can be significant assets to your team’s speed, safety, comfort and efficiency. Identify which facets of your operation could use some improvement and use this data collection to determine whether equipment upgrades could help you reach your goals.
12. Teach Staff How to Maintain Organization
Train your team on the best practices for warehouse space utilization, safety and organization. Implement regular check-ins with employees and use ongoing training to reinforce critical skills. Seek and incorporate feedback from all active parties to shape future training and policies.
Consider assigning a warehouse safety and organization officer or committee to streamline changes and keep the team accountable. Organization should be mandatory and not optional, especially in critical areas of the warehouse. Remember to account for the time needed to clean up and reorganize during shifts when scheduling and creating project estimates.
Organize Warehouse Inventory Using Automation
No matter the setup you decide to attempt, you’ll need an automation process to keep track of everything. The right software can help you locate products much more quickly than the warehouse foreman’s memory. You also ensure you know exactly how many products you have in stock. This way you can order more stock right away to avoid keeping customers waiting.
That’s where warehouse management systems come in. This software, designed especially for warehouses, provides a range of features. It can improve the inbound, outbound, order fulfillment and inventory control functions of your facility. Your receiving department can use it to achieve a 50% time reduction for every inbound delivery. The software can separate returns from new inventory, organize stock by lots and direct workers through the correct steps for put-away activities.
You’ll also streamline warehouse transfers and save time shipping to clients. You even gain advanced control over your picking waves and automate your inventory tracking. FDM4’s warehouse management solution for apparel brands can help you achieve 99% inventory accuracy and 100% visibility.
If you’re looking for software to help track the storage of your apparel inventory, talk to FDM4. We have helped many companies grow with our warehouse management solutions, streamlining their storage options and finding the system that works best. Contact us today to learn more about our products for apparel manufacturers and more.