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How sat­is­fied are you with your ware­house?

Written by: Dennis Beijaard
at at 07 October 2022
How satisfied are you with your warehouse?

Have you ever wondered whether your warehouse, or even better, your warehouse layout and associated management could not or should be better?

If you can answer that question in the negative, this article may not be directly for you (although you can always learn from it…). If you answered “yes” to the question, it may be useful to continue reading.

Why change?

There may be good reasons to think about automating your warehouse:

  • Your company will grow significantly;
  • Your competition is faster and/or cheaper than you in terms of delivery time;
  • Perhaps your strategy forces you to invest in an automated warehouse? You want to expand your production, you want to deliver faster or maybe keep more product in stock?

Pain Points

We see many pain points when we look at the way in which warehouses are operated that are not automated. We list the most common.

  1. It takes great effort to meet the delivery times.
    When customers order from you, they count on receiving the goods at the time you have delivered. But can you always make it to that time? Can you manage that? Or do you sometimes run into problems due to unexpectedly large crowds in the warehouse? You may have to hire additional employees, who must first be trained and who increase your cost price. You know from experience, if you deliver later it will cost you a lot of goodwill.
  2. At times there is (too) much pressure on the warehouse floor.
    That can mean that employees get in each other's way, crowd each other. Or forklifts that have to wait for each other. With extra employees, you know that per capita productivity is declining. There is less and less talk of efficient working.
  3. The warehouse is struggling with a lack of storage options. The positions are full.
    What if you can no longer store your products? How do you keep track of where what is stored or stored? Maybe a forklift has to search a long time before it finds an empty space on the shelf for its pallet?  
  4. Motivational problems and physical discomfort in warehouse workers.
    As warehouses grow, the walking or driving distance increases significantly. There are known cases where an order picker travels up to 15 kilometers per day. He has to bend, stretch and stretch. Sooner or later, that means physical complaints or, even worse, failure.  
  5. There are (too) many mistakes made during entry and exit.
    When there is a lot of work pressure, or when the space is too small, you see the number of mistakes made by employees increasing exponentially.
    They pack incorrectly or the product is in the wrong place, or they put it in the wrong truck. All of this leads to additional loss of time, complaints from your customers and therefore additional costs.


What can be advantages when implementing an automated warehouse?

  • A positive effect on your cost side.
    This is the most important argument. You can save costs by doing the same work with fewer employees. Because a warehouse management system works with algorithms and always looks for optimal conditions, walking and driving distances can be significantly reduced. The system may be able to work for you in such a way that no one has to enter the warehouse anymore and that the products are automatically collected and brought to and from the racks.  An additional advantage: automation means a much more efficient use of the square meters of warehouse. Certainly when you are going to pick automated, the aisles can be narrower and you can therefore work with wider racks.
  • Your service level increases or at least remains the same.
    You can maintain your service level towards the customer better than now. A promised delivery time is easier to achieve due to the increased reliability of the warehouse output.
  • The number of errors in your warehouse goes down and (thus) the number of complaints from your customers decreases.
    It should be clear that the number of mistakes made will decrease. A computer simply makes fewer mistakes than the average employee. The customer in particular will benefit from this. He actually receives his order at the announced moment.  
  • You can offer sharper delivery times.
    By being well and tightly organized internally, you can get your products out of the warehouse faster than before. This means that you can work with sharper (ie shorter) delivery times. Possibly sharper than any of your competitors.
  • It improves the motivation of your warehouse employees.
    The physical load on the warehouse employee is reduced. That means a less tired employee who stays on track better and feels much more comfortable in his environment. That also benefits productivity.
  • There is more safety for goods and the environment.
    Because people no longer or much less walk into the warehouse, your goods are much safer. The chance of theft decreases. the safetyid for the environment can be increased because the risk of two hazardous substances being stored next to each other in an automated system is no longer present.

Should you automate or not?

Above we have compiled an interesting list of why automation might be a good idea for you. But is it really that black and white? There are all kinds of practical considerations why you should perhaps not switch to automatic systems after all, or maybe later in time? We mention the most important.

  • Are you maintaining the correct stock levels?
    Perhaps you can take a critical look at your demand forecast. How sharp are you in that? Do you take seasonal influences into account? With better demand forecasting, you may be able to eliminate many of the problems in the warehouse and be better prepared for the orders to come.
  • Which processes are the bottleneck? Can you solve that with automation?
    Look at those warehouse processes that give you the biggest headache. Can you tackle this and standardize it extensively? Try to remove all customer-specific/custom elements. These are often the disruptive factors that cause a lot of misery and rework.  
  • Does your range fit within standard automation?
    As a rule, there are two types of storage and order-picking systems: one that works with standard pallets and one that uses plastic containers or boxes of similar dimensions. Your range must fit on those pallets or in those bins. If not, you will soon be stuck with a cost-increasing custom system. Is that what you want? A sharply formulated business case can provide the answer.
  • Is your warehouse even suitable for an automated layout?
    When making adjustments to your racks, there may be different requirements for your floor, for example? Is it strong enough for a different load? Is the building high enough? And what about the scalability of your property? Can the property handle the growth in the next five years? If not, investing in automation may not be an option right now.
  • Which software can you use?
    What do you have at home now? Possibly an ERP system that acts as the backbone for your business operations. And with which you now support the warehouse. Or maybe you have something like a warehouse management system (or module) at home?

Either way, the answers to these questions will determine your leeway when it comes to automating your warehouse. What does talk to each other, what understands each other and what does not? It is very important to be well informed about this and to compare that information with what you want, your so-called requirements.

Perhaps you are a typical example for a planned growth model? Automating your warehouse is a major project with potentially high costs. And the conversion of your warehouse demands a lot from the standing organization. Something that usually has to be done in addition to the normal day job.

It is good to think about a growth model, a phased growth of the system. Start small and then build out. Record this in a well-thought-out plan with various phases and milestones and implement that plan in sub-projects. This way you keep control financially and in terms of workload.

Talk to DAPP about your warehouse layout!

How satisfied are you with your warehouse now, after reading this article? Can it still get through or is it slowly time for a change. DAPP likes to think along with you. Would you like to see a few things worked out in a Business case? Contact our experts for an exploratory and informative conversation.