Do you feel like you’re constantly playing catch-up in your warehouse? Are you struggling to keep up with demand, or are products misplaced continuously or lost?
If so, you may be experiencing some of the common symptoms of a disorganized warehouse. Even worse, a messy warehouse can be downright dangerous since it increases the risk of accidents and threatens employee safety.
Luckily, there are solutions to these common problems. This post will discuss six of the most common complaints we hear from clients and prospects about warehouse disorganization.
We will also provide solutions and tips for overcoming these problems and product and feature recommendations.
What is inventory management?
Before we can discuss the symptoms of a messy warehouse, it’s essential first to understand what inventory management is.
Inventory management is the process of tracking and controlling inventory levels, ensuring that products are available when needed and that extra inventory is avoided.
When it comes to inventory management in practice, warehouse management software is typically utilized in some fashion to manage stock and assets stored in stock locations in a business’s warehouse space.
Why inventory management is essential for your ecommerce business
When done correctly, inventory management can help you improve your bottom line by promoting employee safety, reducing waste, and improving efficiency.
It can also help you respond more quickly to changes in demand, ensuring that you have the products your customers want when they want them.
Unfortunately, without an inventory management system in place to keep track of your material, it will be a challenge, or even impossible at times, for warehouse personnel to do their jobs.
Disorganized warehouses may lead to lost sales, stock shortages, and damaged reputations if they are not corrected. If you don’t have a system in place to manage your stock items for your ecommerce business, you’re likely experiencing at least one of these problems (or all of them).
Also, a messy warehouse can spiral out of control in no time. How easily you recover has a lot to do with how much warehouse space you have and how widespread the problem is.
If you have a perpetual inventory system, you may only find the trouble in the wall-to-wall inventory count that happens once a year or biannually, depending on your policy.
That’s a lot of time for the problem to continue unfettered in storage locations. Leaving your stock in disarray for all that time can have devastating ripple effects on your business.
The future state: the organized warehouse
As we move through these symptoms of a disorganized warehouse, bear in mind that there are solutions to these problems.
And the first step is investing in a warehouse management system (WMS). This system can help you overcome these challenges described here and more by providing features like:
- A master catalog of all inventory items
- Sales channel syncing
- Real-time inventory tracking
- Advanced forecasting
- Purchase order management
- Establishing location awareness
- QC scanning
- Wave picking
If you’re serious about scaling your ecommerce business, a WMS is essential. Let us reiterate because we can’t emphasize it enough. If you’re experiencing any of the symptoms of a disorganized warehouse, it’s probably high time to take action and invest in a WMS.
6 symptoms of an unorganized or messy warehouse
Here are six of the most common complaints about disorganized warehouses we hear from clients and prospects, along with corresponding solutions and tips for overcoming these problems.
1. “When I check different places, they all have different data.”
One of the first symptoms of a disorganized warehouse is inconsistent or unreliable inventory data. And that statement above is a good indicator that your warehouse is not as efficient as it could be. In fact, this issue can lead to a number of problems, including:
- Inventory shortages
- Overage and obsolescence
- Inefficient picking
This issue can be a real headache for warehouse managers trying to keep track of inventory levels, locate products, and fulfill orders. The problem compounds when you have multiple employees working in the same space, and each one is keeping track of data differently.
The solution to this problem is to have a single source of truth for better inventory management. To do this, you’ll need a WMS with master catalog features.
A central cataloging database will pay dividends here because it ensures that there is only one record for each SKU in the system. This way, everyone is working off of the same data set, and you can avoid costly mistakes and skyrocketing labor costs.
In a nutshell, using proper storage techniques and categorizing inventory will maximize your operations and free up any wasted space, resulting in increased capacity and better efficiency.
2. “We’re selling things we don’t have.”
Another common symptom of disorganized warehouses is selling out-of-stock products, also known as overselling. When this happens, it can cause several problems, including:
- Lost sales and missed opportunities
- More time spent responding to customer service emails
- Wasted time and resources looking for stock
- Damage to your company’s reputation
The solution to this problem is to have sales channel syncing capabilities that help establish inventory transparency. This feature ensures that your inventory levels sync with your sales channels, so you’re not selling products that you don’t have.
But what is a sales channel sync? It’s a feature that allows you to connect your sales channels (e.g., Amazon, eBay, Shopify) to your WMS. This way, when a product sells on one of your sales channels, the inventory level is automatically updated in your WMS.
Another way to prevent overselling is to invest in a warehouse management system with advanced forecasting capabilities. For example, a WMS can use past data to predict future stock needs and help you avoid running out of products.
3. “We’re losing sales and reordering based on gut feeling.”
If you’re losing sales because you don’t have the right products in stock, it’s a good indication that you have a warehouse that’s either messy or not optimized. Problems you’ll see include:
- Inefficient use of working capital
- Missed opportunities and lost sales
- Inaccurate forecasting
- Ad hoc reordering
The forecasting and PO management features of a WMS will solve this messy warehouse problem by helping you maintain inventory transparency. The WMS will give you real-time visibility into your inventory levels, so you can see what’s in stock and what needs to be reordered.
A WMS will also help you forecast by using past data to predict future demand. This way, you can avoid ad hoc reordering and the human error associated with it to make more informed decisions about what to stock in your warehouse.
4. “Warehouse employees can’t find where stuff is.”
One of the most common complaints we hear is that warehouse personnel can’t find what they need when they need it. It’s a sign of poor warehouse organization, and it can cause:
- Inefficient use of time (motion waste)
- Missed opportunities and lost sales
- Inaccurate forecasting
One of the better warehouse organization ideas on this list is to have a WMS with locations and an advanced inventory search feature. This feature will help your personnel find the products they need—when they need them.
How does an inventory search work? It’s a search function that allows you to find inventory by different criteria, such as product name, SKU, location, etc. The feature helps cut down on human error and labor costs too.
For example, let’s say you’re looking for a specific product in your warehouse. You can use the inventory search function to find the product by its SKU. The search function will show you all of the products with that SKU, as well as their locations.
Another way to solve the problem of poor warehouse organization is to invest in a WMS with labeling capabilities. This feature will help you label your products and shelves, so your personnel can easily find what they’re looking for.
A WMS with labeling capabilities will also help you keep your warehouse organized. That’s because you can label products and shelves according to their contents. For example, you can label a shelf ” seasonal goods” or “out-of-season goods.” This way, you’ll know exactly where to find what you’re looking for.
5. “We keep sending out the wrong things.”
Ah, the heartbreak of miss-shipping an item and the inevitable phone call or email from the customer you’re bound to get. We’ve all been there, and it’s not a fun experience. This problem is usually caused by inventory issues, such as:
- Inaccurate inventory counts
- Poorly organized warehouse
- Inefficient picking processes
The fix is a WMS with QC scanning features that give you accurate fulfillment at scale. This feature will help you scan your products as they’re picked and compare them to the order. If there’s a discrepancy, the WMS will notify you and stop the picking process.
This way, you’ll avoid sending out the wrong items and embarrassing yourself in front of your customers. Additionally, if not more importantly, QC scanning helps avoid the cost of return postage, cost of labor to re-fill the package, and potential of lost product.
6. “Our pickers keep retracing their steps.”
This symptom showcases another one of the many warehouse problems caused by an unorganized or messy facility. A warehouse worker has a lot of warehouse aisles to cover when they are picking stock. Therefore, they don’t need anything slowing them down.
When your pickers have to retrace their steps, it’s a sign that your warehouse is not organized efficiently, causing inefficient picking routes and workflows.
This problem can cause:
- Lack of inventory visibility
- Inability to find the products you need when you need them
- Not knowing where your products are in the warehouse
- Duplicate SKUs and incorrect quantities
- Long order fulfillment lead times (and high labor costs)
- Mass stock-outs or running out of stock on popular items
The problem is solved using inventory management software with features that give you fast and efficient fulfillment at scale. One WMS product feature that helps with this aspect is wave picking, which creates an optimized pick list for your warehouse personnel.
Wave picking, also known as cluster picking, will help you plan and optimize your pick routes, so your personnel can pick orders quickly and efficiently.
Overall, using proper storage techniques and categorizing inventory will maximize your operations and free up any wasted space, resulting in increased capacity and better efficiency.
Start a 6S program to keep your warehouse clean and safe
Now that we’ve gone over some of the most common symptoms of a disorganized warehouse, it’s time to talk about some other solutions besides a WMS. One solution is to start a 6S program, which is basically a Lean 5S program with another category for safety.
The warehouse manager and the warehouse champion can work with the employees to implement the following solutions:
- Sort: This is where you separate the items in your warehouse into categories.
- Set in order: This is where you put the sorted items in their correct place and start eliminating warehouse clutter.
- Shine: This is where you clean the work area and make it look presentable.
- Standardize: This is where you create rules and procedures for running the warehouse.
- Sustain: This is where you make sure the standards set in place are followed.
- Safety: This is the sixth category, and it’s where you focus on safety in the warehouse. It can be doing things like eliminating warehouse clutter, giving employees safety training, identifying and stopping safety hazards, and ensuring employees are wearing the correct safety gear.
For more information about 5S and 6S program implementation, you can read the following blog posts:
Let SkuVault Core Help You Improve Your Warehouse Efficiency
As you can see, when you take the time to organize your warehouse, you can avoid common problems, improve efficiency, and boost your bottom line. However, if you’re still struggling to keep your warehouse organized and efficient, SkuVault Core can help.
SkuVault’s WMS software has advanced features, unlimited integrations, and simple workflows that will help you organize your warehouse and manage your stock efficiently. We have features like wave picking, put-away, catalog features and much, much more that will help you save time and avoid mistakes.