Introduction to Warehouse Operations

An introduction to warehouse - Type of warehouses, technology tools used and different warehousing operations.

When you order a product from Amazon or from a local shopify store, these products are not carried all the way from the source location to your home. They are routed through multiple middle mile storage locations called Warehouses. 

A warehouse is a commercial building used for the storage and distribution of goods. Warehouses are an essential part of the supply chain management process, as they enable businesses to store, organize, and distribute products efficiently. The purpose of a warehouse is to provide a central location where goods can be stored and accessed as needed. 

In this article, we will talk about how to run Warehouse Operations. 

Types of Warehouses:

There are several types of warehouses, including 

  1. Distribution warehouses
  2. Manufacturing warehouses
  3. Retail warehouses

Distribution Warehouse

These are common warehouses you see in ecommerce businesses. They are storage locations that hold the products temporarily or permanently and when there’s a new customer order, they help distribute the product through the company’s logistics network. These warehouses are typically located outside the city since the primary movement of goods is through the logistics network and not the customer visit. 

Manufacturing Warehouse

Manufacturing warehouses are stores that accompany a manufacturing facility. These stores typically have the raw materials used for manufacturing and the finished goods. For example, if there’s a furniture manufacturing warehouse, the warehouse will have the wood, nails, clamps, glue and other products that are needed to make the furniture and the finished furniture ready for delivery or pickup.

Retail Warehouses

Retail warehouses are stores where goods are sold. For example, the store accompanying your neighborhood corner shop is a Retail warehouse. The retail warehouse contains all the products that are ready to be sold to the customers. These are typically smaller warehouses and located populated areas to sell products easily.

Warehouse Design and Layout

Effective warehouse design and layout are crucial for the smooth operation of any warehouse. There are several factors to consider when designing a warehouse layout, including 

  1. The type and size of the products being stored
  2. The volume of products
  3. The number of SKUs (stock-keeping units). 

Some of the most common types of warehouse layouts include the block layout, the grid layout, and the diagonal layout.

One of the best practices for warehouse layout design is to utilize vertical space. This can be achieved through the use of pallet racks, mezzanines, and other storage systems that allow for the storage of goods at multiple levels. The vertical layout also means that the ability to access these products need to be thought through. These are good mechanisms in the warehouses that are powered by robotics which can smoothly access products across any angle without much trouble. 

Another key aspect of warehouse layout design is to create clear and efficient pathways for the movement of goods, including both pedestrian and vehicle traffic.

Warehouse Management Systems

A warehouse management system (WMS) is a software application that helps businesses manage the various functions of their warehouse, including receiving, putaway, order picking, fulfillment, and shipping. A WMS can help improve efficiency, accuracy, and productivity in a warehouse by automating tasks, providing real-time visibility into inventory levels, and enabling the tracking of goods throughout the warehouse. There are several types of WMSs available, including cloud-based, on-premises, and hybrid systems.

Warehouse Execution Systems

While the Warehouse Management System is the brain of any warehouse, there are needs for Warehouse execution systems. Execution systems are applications facing front-line workers who actually do the work of moving the products or auditing the products. These execution systems are typically mobile applications or scanners that help the users to access products easily. Unlike WMS, WES is not widely adopted across warehouses yet. 

If you’re looking for a powerful WES system that can accommodate your custom usecases, checkout Zorp. Zorp helps you build purpose built solutions to manage all your warehouse operations in just a few minutes. 

Types of Warehouse Operations

Let’s have a look at the different types of Warehouse Operations here.

Receiving and Putaway

This is the first part of the warehouse operations where goods enter into the warehouse. Imagine a truck bringing all the products to the warehouse reception.

The receiving process in a warehouse involves the unloading of goods from vehicles and the verification of the received products against the purchase order. The putaway process involves the storage of received goods in the appropriate location in the warehouse. The different locations in the warehouse are typically marked by Bays, Racks and Bins. 

When a new product is received in the warehouse, it needs to be recorded in the Inventory Management System. The Inventory management system tracks the current holding inventory in the warehouse and needs to be updated in real time for efficient operations of the warehouse. 

Effective receiving and putaway processes are essential for maintaining accurate inventory levels and ensuring that products can be easily located and accessed when needed. Some best practices for receiving and putaway include the use of barcode scanning technology, the implementation of strict receiving procedures, and updating the inventory management system.

Zorp helps you create effective Receiving and Putaway systems that help you follow the best practices detailed above. 

Order Picking and Fulfillment

The order picking process in a warehouse involves the retrieval of the products required to fulfill customer orders. The picking process has been detailed in the post linked earlier. 

The fulfillment process involves the packing and shipping of the products to the customer. The shipping process is also called dispatch. 

Effective order picking and fulfillment processes are crucial for ensuring timely delivery and customer satisfaction. Some best practices for order picking and fulfillment include the use of pick-to-light systems, the implementation of zone picking techniques, and the use of real-time tracking systems. Wanna know more about how to implement the right picking techniques and how you can get real-time tracking systems? Use Zorp.

Shipping and Distribution

The shipping process in a warehouse involves the preparation and loading of products onto vehicles for delivery to customers. The distribution process involves the transportation of goods from the warehouse to their final destination.

Effective shipping and distribution processes are essential for ensuring timely delivery and maintaining strong relationships with customers. Some best practices for shipping and distribution include the use of real-time tracking systems, the implementation of strict shipping procedures, and the use of advanced shipping software.

Logistics is a very important and powerful part of the supply chain process and needs powerful tools to track and ensure quality of Operations. Zorp comes with native tools that help you do this effectively. 

Conclusion

Warehouse operations play a vital role in the smooth functioning of the supply chain management process. From warehouse design and layout to receiving and putaway, order picking and fulfillment, and shipping and distribution, every aspect of warehouse operations must be carefully planned and executed to ensure the efficient movement of goods. As technology continues to advance, we see that the WMS and WES requirements are becoming table stakes. The high growth companies out there are constantly innovating and looking for better tools to manage their warehouse operations better. 

Given the changing business models lately, one of the key parts of enforcing this is by using purpose built tools that fit the business’s specific needs. That’s where Zorp becomes a key tool in a company’s arsenal. 

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