Soho warehouse: When managing a warehouse, your duties and responsibilities may range from supervising and evaluating employees to things like shipping, purchasing, receiving, inventory control, storage, and distributing merchandise. Running an efficient, safe, and productive warehouse is a multi-faceted job, but there are some guidelines you can follow to ensure you do a great job while protecting your employees and your merchandise. In this article, we discuss the essential warehouse skills you need to work in a warehouse, how to improve yours and highlight them on your resume.
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1. Keep the warehouse clean, neat, and organized.
Aisles and walkways should be free of spills and debris. Do not allow boxes or merchandise to be left in walkways where people might trip. Mark all pedestrian walkways, vehicle lanes, and inclines with highly visible floor markings. Employee safety should always come first. They must be aware of and follow all of your safety standards. They must also know how to operate all of the equipment they will be utilizing to select objects, such as forklifts, dollies, ladders, and so on, in a safe manner.
- Make sure to keep cables or suspended equipment from hanging over pedestrian walkways or vehicle lanes.
- Take advantage of wall space to add storage lockers or hooks.
- Manage cords on the floor with tape, or cover them with cord covers.
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2. Make sure all areas are properly lit.
Bright lights will promote alertness and workplace safety by keeping your employees awake and aware of their surroundings. Make sure light bulbs are replaced immediately when they go out and that there are no dark areas in the warehouse.
3. Train employees on general warehouse safety practices.
All warehouse employees should attend training on warehouse safety standards and confirm in writing that they have received adequate training. Many injuries arise from improper material handling, so your safety program should place a heavy focus on the proper ways to pick up, reach for, and carry heavy objects. You should also include a section on loading-dock safety, including limiting the height of stacked pallets and keeping the dock area free of obstructions.
- You may wish to develop a safety program specifically tailored to your company. Work with human resources to develop training materials.
- Consider online training, which may allow you to archive training materials (videos and print-outs) so they can be viewed many times.
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4. Make sure employees that use mechanical equipment are properly trained.
An employee operating warehouse equipment — forklifts, mechanical loaders, electric stackers, lifters, linear wrappers, etc. — must be fully trained in their use and certified if necessary.
- Make sure these employees are trained to identify hazards, respond to them quickly, follow safety protocols, and take special care in the loading-dock area.
- If certification is required to operate vehicles or equipment (such as a forklift), you must verify that employees have received this training.
5. Enforce safety regulations.
Such rules are designed to avoid employee injuries that could deprive you of skilled labor. Enforce safety regulations by placing reminder signs where appropriate and punishing employees seen regularly disregarding safety rules. Do not make exceptions for anyone violating the rules.
- Educate your employees on appropriate protective gear such as hard hats, steel-toed boots, safety goggles, and heavy gloves.
- Make sure forklift or other machinery operators are properly trained to use only designated lanes when moving such equipment around the warehouse.
6. Do regular safety checks.
Make sure everything is up-to-date. Plan regular vehicle, machinery, equipment and loading-dock examinations and maintenance in order to keep them in proper working order.
- Report, replace or repair any damaged or missing safety features. Lights, reverse sensors, and warning signals should be tested on vehicles.
- Test repaired equipment to make sure it is safe before returning it to the warehouse floor.
- Immediately attend to any reported safety hazards.
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7. Communicate clearly with your employees.
To run a successful warehouse operation, you’ll need to listen and respond to your workers. Consider implementing an open-door policy for any employees with questions or concerns. You can also allow workers to make anonymous comments or suggestions via a comments box. This will allow you to deal with employee complaints before they become serious problems.
- Morale and group continuity are important aspects of effective operations. Groups that work well together tend to get things done quickly. Ensuring there is good morale helps the team to be productive.
- It is important to develop a positive workplace culture and also to give the employees opportunities to participate in relevant decision making where possible. This increases their sense of ownership of the activities they’re responsible for and may even encourage them to come up with innovations to improve the workplace.
8. Interview qualified candidates.
Look for potential employees who conduct themselves professionally and are skilled enough for the position. Once you have several applicants for the position, make a hiring decision based on their applications and interviews.
- Involve the appropriate supervisor in the decision. He or she may have good insight in picking the right applicant.
9. Train new employees.
Once a new employee has been hired, you may need to help them get started. This may involve supervising their training or performing parts of their training yourself. You may want to show them around the warehouse and introduce them to other supervisors with whom they may be working.
- Make yourself available in case new hires have questions while they are settling in.
- Retraining may also be required, as processes within the warehouse’s organization may change. Make sure to schedule time for retraining each employee if this is the case.
- You can also cross-train employees (train them in more than one role) so that if one employee is ill or fired, others can temporarily take their place.
10. Give feedback and performance reviews.
Meet with all employees regularly and review their performance. This is an opportunity for growth an encouragement. Talk to the employee about his strengths and reward excellent performance and behavior. Discuss ways in which the employee can improve, address any weaknesses or bad behavior, and make a plan for improvement.
- You may also ask supervisors for input regarding employee performance.
- Make sure you follow up with any corrective actions.
- Have a metric by which you can assess progress and capability of each employee. For example, this could be how long it takes an employee to complete a task, how long it takes to solve a specific problem, and the like.
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11. Fire employees when necessary.
Letting employees go is never easy, but a good manager recognizes when doing so is necessary. The important thing is that the manager fire the employee in a professional manner and do the firing him or herself.
- Consider firing an employee if they consistently ignore safety procedures, show up late for work regularly, skip work, show up intoxicated to work, fail to complete tasks in a timely manner, or otherwise disrupt warehouse operations on a regular basis.
12. Keep up with employment laws.
Workplace and compensation regulations change frequently, so it is important to monitor changes and implement them as soon as possible. Make sure to look out for changes in state or federal laws that could have anything to do with your warehouse or employees. You may be able to follow these changes more closely by subscribing to a relevant trade magazine.
- Make sure you have a means to assess when employees are stressed out. Signs an employee is stressed out can include a lowering of professionalism, overthinking things and inability to deal with external disruptions without losing a whole day’s productivity.
13. Establish a consistent and efficient organization system.
Your primary goal as a warehouse manager is to manage products, namely by ensuring that the right products go where they need to go when they need to go there. To save employees time in searching for products, create a logical organizational system that can be easily interpreted and used. For starters, you should place the most-moved products in an easily accessible area such as the center of the warehouse. Additionally, group products that are often shipped together near each other.
- Make sure your warehouse is easily navigable by clearly labeling aisles and product groups.
- For example, let’s say your warehouse stocks computer components. You have everything from memory and processors to accessories like keyboards and webcams. However, the items you move most are replacement power cords. In this case, you should keep your stock of power cords closer to the loading area and easily within reach at waist or shoulder height so that they can be moved quickly and easily.
- This area should be labeled clearly as “power cords” or something similar.
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14. Make picking more efficient.
Picking, or gathering products into shipments, can take up a large amount of your workers’ time. However, you can make changes to your picking process to speed it up. For example, if you regularly ship large orders to a few key customers, consider organizing pick lists so that similar items are grouped together. For smaller orders to a large number of clients, you can set it up so that the pick lists are grouped, and the actual products are divided at a later stage.
- Imagine that your computer-components warehouse regularly ships small numbers of your power cords to a large number of electronics stores. Try organizing your picking lists so that the total number of power cords is taken from the power cord aisle at one time and then separated before shipping. This will avoid having your pickers go back and forth all day.
- Some managers choose to implement a system of color-coding on picking lists that can either organize items by warehouse area or by customer priority, where certain colors indicate high-volume clients.
15. Establish an inventory-management system.
Ideally, any movement of an item should be recorded with all relevant information, including time, product status, and product code. An effective management system can be implemented through the use of RFID tags or barcodes linked to an inventory-management-software program. Make sure that all of your employees are thoroughly trained in the use of this system.
- In some cases this system will have to comply with overall company policy. Make sure to learn this policy so that you can correctly implement it in warehouse operations.
16. Do a visual inspection of storage areas regularly.
Walk around and make sure storage areas are neatly maintained and contain the appropriate products.
- Use only designated areas for merchandise storage. Make certain employees have clearly marked these areas and are storing only the specified items according to the markings.
- Check pallets for damage, and make sure staff know how to load pallets properly for stability.
- Record inspection dates and any damage you find. Start the repair process or discard items as needed.
17. Meet regularly with key staff.
Organize monthly or weekly meetings with important upper-level staff members. These include managers and supervisors of warehouse inventory, storage, and purchasing.
- Discuss new ideas, improved procedures, equipment replacement, budgets, staff promotions, recommendations and all other work-related topics.
- Address questions relating to damaged merchandise or to purchasing concerns regarding vendors, pricing, quality, or merchandise availability.
18. Make changes when necessary.
To keep the warehouse running smoothly, you may have to make changes to product storage or product movement processes. Take time every six months or so to assess storage areas and each individual process. Note areas where you can make improvements.
19. Coordinate trucks and drivers carrying merchandise to and from your warehouse so that each function runs smoothly.
Coordinating arriving and departing trucks promotes the efficient use of your loading docks. This is easier if you use a specially designed software package. This doesn’t mean buying into a full-service program right away. You should be able to find a program that just handles delivery and shipping coordination. Make use of free-trial offers before picking a program.
- Coordinating loading and unloading means trying to schedule the arrival and departure of trucks in such a way that they will not have to wait while other trucks are being loaded or unloaded. Make sure that your docks are constantly being used and that there are never more trucks present than available spaces.
- You should also focus on limiting arrivals such that your unloading team has adequate time to unpack and sort the arriving items before more arrive. If they arrive faster than that, it creates a “bottleneck” that leads to costly inefficiencies, not to mention employee stress and frustration.
20. Arrange employee schedules so there are enough handlers available to load and unload trucks.
This may require planning for additional employees to be present for large shipments.
21. Organize your receiving process.
Assign enough merchandise checkers and receivers to each shift to compare invoices with merchandise received and to check the condition of the merchandise on arrival. Make sure your staff knows what to do with a damaged shipment. Ensure that received products are quickly shelved to avoid discrepancies between received shipments and what is actually on the shelves.
- Give your receiving team enough space to work. This ensures that recently received products are not mixed up with existing product.
22. Control shipment quality.
Implement controls to check the quality of products before they leave the warehouse. Organize a system such that defective or incorrectly packed items are checked and removed from the shipment before it leaves the warehouse. This can help prevent costly returns.
- Put an experienced employee whom you trust in charge of quality control. Their experience can save your warehouse a good amount of money.
23. Track your shipments.
Your customers will want to know exactly where their products are and when they will be arriving. This will also help you deal quickly with missing packages. Be sure to implement shipment tracking with whatever shipping service you use, and regularly check their tracking for accuracy.
24. Gain practical experience.
The quickest way to learn essential warehouse skills is to work in an actual warehouse. There are many things that you will learn from the job that you can’t learn from any trade school or college course. Even if you have to start at an entry-level position running errands or performing clerical duties, you will quickly pick up useful warehouse skills by working in a warehouse.
25. Learn from others.
You will probably encounter people with more experience and knowledge than you have, especially if you are new to the job. Learning from more senior coworkers, managers, and supervisors will help you fast track your professional growth. If you are fortunate enough to have experienced coworkers willing to help you out with tips and advice, take advantage of the opportunity to learn.
26. Take on other responsibilities.
Going beyond your comfort zone is another effective way to improve and expand your warehouse skills. Ask your supervisor if there are opportunities for you to take on added roles. You might also want to keep the option open for lateral promotions, which will enable you to expand your skills and knowledge without necessarily being promoted to a more demanding position.
27. Undergo training.
If your place of work offers training programs for technical positions or management roles, use these as opportunities to learn some new skills. Such programs usually allow you to develop new abilities that are especially relevant to your work environment.
28. Put your skills to work.
Just as with any other skills or proficiencies, you can improve your warehouse skills considerably by regularly putting them to practice. Using your skills in real-world scenarios will help you apply them more effectively and identify other skills that you need to develop.
29. More tips
Consider using software to manage and simplify the task of tracking and managing inventory.
Perform preventive maintenance on your equipment, machinery and tools to avoid major issues and down time.
A warehouse manager must have exceptional interpersonal skills. He must not only work with his employees but with the customers.
- Minimize the presence of unauthorized personnel by requiring all employees to wear a uniform. This can simply be a certain hat or t-shirt.
Warehouse skills often consist of specific professional skills related to warehouse production, such as operating a forklift, being familiar with warehouse terminology and owning practical skills such as organization and physical stamina. Knowing what skills employers are looking for, as well as how to develop and highlight yours on a resume is important to obtaining your desired position.