Every industry has best practices. They are the ultimate result of collaboration between industry insiders, experts, and even competitors, that make the industry better as a whole. When it comes to distribution center (DC) best practices, there are several factors to consider when creating the best environment for efficiency and product movement. Here are ten we feel make a real impact in the DC.
The most important best practice a successful DC should install is putting safety first. Having realistic expectations of employees, backed by time studies is one way to do this. Revisit processes every quarter to see where time can be adjusted due to new tech, packaging, or other elements that can cause changes. Accidents happen when workers feel rushed, so ensure the time given is appropriate to the task.
#2–Invest in Tech
Technology is everywhere we look these days from the moment we wake up to our Calm Meditation Sleep App at night. Logistics should be no different. Choose programs and applications that are appropriate for the size of your operation. Be sure to look for tech that self-monitors so that it can warn you before it gets close to the end of its operational life. Which brings us to…
#3–Be Proactive with Maintenance
Some things break out of the blue, but often times a little oversight can prevent or prepare a DC for equipment failure. Each piece of equipment should have a maintenance checklist (here’s an example) and an owner(s) of the task. Not only will this support safety in the DC, but it will also help you anticipate any downtime or additional costs before they happen.
#4–Automated Data Collection
Much like our number two best practice, automated data collection is a necessity for logistics providers. This data is crucial to knowing if your DC is hitting its KPIs or is falling short. Use of barcodes and RFID codes reduce labor and errors as well as provide accurate data. Remember, any data collection method you use should be simple to read, record, and account for as needed.
Trust is priceless but very hard to come by. To prevent inventory shrinkage, encourage whistleblowing and keep it private. Also, be sure to foster a “trust but verify” approach in the DC.
The key to a strong and efficient (and profitable) supply chain is eliminating all unnecessary touches that can slow down a product’s speed or result in error. It could be anything from pickers “picking” the product and taking it directly to a shipping container rather than putting it in a carton to get transferred to shipping. Look for small instances where effort is being duplicated unnecessarily and then make small but impactful changes.
#7–Embrace Synchronized Deliveries of Multiple-Part Orders
Having a product just sitting on a dock is no one’s idea of a good thing. Look for ways to guarantee multiple parts of a single order arrive as closely together as possible–simultaneously is ideal. The benefits are big when you can move freight from one truck to the next without it sitting in limbo.
Take a hands-on approach to returned merchandise. This gives you a clear view of what is coming into the DC and what is leaving it. You can assess what items can be turned and resold and which need to be reordered, keeping inventory tight.
#9–Improve Communication with Wireless Devices
While email has changed the way we do business, in a time-sensitive environment, direct communication is best. Invest in a solution that all departments can use consistently. Radios, cell phones, and tablets are all worthy options.
#10–Take it Off Cruise
Cruise control is no way to run a DC. While much is automated, there is always room for improvements. Make it a part of your monthly, quarterly, or bi-annual process to review the supply chain. Follow the product and look for creative ways to improve speed and efficiency while lowering chances for error. It’s seductive to let a “good” system just work, but a little oversight can turn a good system into a great one.
Being mindful of best practices and committing to a lifelong learner frame of mind can create greater profit and customer loyalty. Looking for a third-party logistics provider that keeps best practices front of mind and in action? JIT Services is an Indianapolis, Indiana and Alabama innovative, award-winning service provider of warehouse management, fulfillment, distribution, and supply chain solutions. We not only follow best practices, we create them. Contact us today to talk about we can create a customized supply chain solution for you.