“Companies that manage their supply chains effectively tend to see faster revenue growth.”

Imagine stepping into your warehouse to find everything running like clockwork: inventory flowing in and out smoothly, every item stored perfectly in its place, and orders being picked and packed quickly. If that vision seems far from don’t worry! In this blog, we’ll dive into the nitty gritty of optimizing warehouse operations to increase efficiency, from laying out your space to maximizing to mastering the art of inventory management! 

Whether you’re just getting started or looking to improve your processes, we’ve got you covered! 

Optimizing Warehouse Operations

What does your warehouse look like?

The perfect layout for your warehouse is more than just the arrangement of shelves and aisles; it uses every square foot of space, streamlines your workflows, and ensures that your staff can perform their duties effectively and safely. But how do you know if your warehouse layout is living up to its potential? How can you optimize your space so that your processes flow smoothly?

To answer this question, begin by thoroughly inspecting your warehouse. Pay close attention to how space is used, and document your observations on accessibility, flow, and the overall organization. During your walkthrough, take detailed notes of anything you see that should be improved upon. Don’t be afraid to be brutal! This is not about ego or blame, it’s about optimizing warehouse operations! Be objective and fair, and then come up with a plan to increase efficiency.

Once you’ve performed your walkthrough and documented pain points, it’s time to get to business!

Tips for Optimizing Your Warehouse Layout

Organize inventory by category or demand

Group items based on their pick frequency or related categories. Placing high-demand items closer to the packing and shipping areas can reduce travel time and improve order fulfillment speeds, which is a great way to optimize your warehouse efficiency. Here is a list of categories an event rental company might use for organizing inventory in the warehouse: 

Category Inventory
Furniture Chairs, Tables, Lounge Furniture
Tableware Plates, Cutlery, Glassware
Linen Tablecloths, Chair Covers, Napkins
Decor Centerpieces, Vases, Flowers
Lighting & AV String Lights, Projectors, Speakers
Tenting & Outdoor Tents, Heaters, Umbrellas
Staging & Flooring Dance Floors, Carpeting, Stages
Games & Entertainment Lawn Games, Photo Booths, Bounce Houses
Seasonal Items Varies by season or holiday

Ensure aisles are wide enough to accommodate equipment

Consider the size of your equipment and the typical load to decide the smallest necessary aisle width for safe and efficient navigation. Here are some examples of common equipment used in warehouses, and the clearance needed for efficient navigation: 

Equipment Name Approximate Clearance Needed
Manual Pallet Jack 3.5 - 4.5 Feet
Electric Pallet Jack 4.0 - 6.0 Feet
Standard Forklift Trucks 12.0 - 13.0 Feet
Order Picker 9.0 - 11.0 Feet

This chart is intended as a guideline. For a safe warehouse layout, always consider the requirements of your operation, including the size of loads, height of storage systems, and how much space it takes to turn your equipment. Additionally, make sure that there is enough room for workers to work safely around your machinery. 

Optimize Storage for Easy Picking

How you handle storage in your warehouse is a huge element of optimizing warehouse operations. When you receive new inventory, what do you do with it? It is essential to have a clear system for inspecting, sorting, and documenting received inventory. When you have a clear system for sorting inventory, then picking inventory for orders becomes easier than ever. Here is an example of what that process might look like: 

  1. Once items are off the truck, inspect them for damage and defects. This ensures all your items meet your business’s quality standards before you store them. 
  2. After inspection, sort the items into categories. They should be sorted based on category type and labeled if needed.
  3. Document your new inventory levels in your Inventory Management System. This typically involves recording the item’s name, description, quantity, condition, and any serial numbers or unique identifiers. 
  4. Move items to their designated storage area. Once items are accounted for, the final step is to move them to their storage area and organize them so that they are easily accessible. 

When it comes to efficiency, this is one area that many rental businesses struggle with. Manually keeping track of every piece of inventory in your warehouse is extremely difficult, and arguably impossible in companies with large inventories.  

That’s why many rental companies are investing in technology that can do inventory tracking for them, rather than staying with the traditional pen-and-paper method.  

Schedule a Demo with TapGoods

Optimizing Warehouse Operations for Picking Inventory Efficiently

Efficient inventory picking is crucial for streamlining operations, reducing errors, and improving customer satisfaction in rental businesses. If you’re in the process of optimizing warehouse operations, then it’s crucial to pay close attention to how your teams are picking inventory. Here are some tips on how you can increase efficiency in this department: 

 1. Use Virtual Picklists

In the past, rental companies have relied on pen-and-paper checklists to pull orders. Nowadays, this is considered a big no-no. Rental software has stepped in to automate manual processes to optimize warehouse operations and increase efficiency by eliminating mundane tasks.

One way that some rental management systems do this is by offering virtual picklists. Virtual picklists are digital versions of the traditional picklist, and they allow users to quickly check inventory in and out on computers, tablets, and even smartphones. With virtual picklists, staff can access the necessary information from anywhere, at any time, using any connected device. 

By ditching paper, you eliminate the risk of someone holding onto an outdated copy. Updates made at the last minute are reflected instantly, ensuring everyone always has access to the most current version.

Best Features for Enhanced Productivity

If you don’t already have a rental management system, or you’re curious about how your current one could be more effective, look for these features: 

  • Real-time Updates: As your teams pick items or inventory levels change, your inventory should automatically reflect these adjustments, ensuring accuracy and minimizing the risk of errors or duplicates. 
  • Cloud-Based: Look for software that allows you to look at your lists on any device, anywhere. Whether you’re in the warehouse or elsewhere, you should always know what your teams need to pick. 
  • Master View: For maximum efficiency, look for software that has a master view of all picklists over a specified period. Your teams should be able to pull up a single page, and quickly update multiple orders at once. This is especially useful when you are using the batch-picking approach! 

With these features, planning is easier! There’s no fussing, no shuffling of papers, and everything you need is automatically generated in one place. When it comes to optimizing warehouse operations, we can’t recommend it enough. 

2. Create a Process for Picking

Processes are a huge part of optimizing warehouse operations for efficiency. Begin with assessing the specific needs of your warehouse, including order volume, variety of inventory, and staffing. Depending on your needs, there are a few methods you can utilize for picking inventory: 

Picking Method Definition PROS CONS
Batch Picking Collecting items for multiple orders at one time. Efficient for handling multiple orders at one time. Reduces time spent traveling around the warehouse per order. More time may be spent sorting inventory for each order after picking.
Zone Picking Assigning team members to pick inventory from specific areas of the warehouse, AKA their “zone”. Assigning specific team members to zones of the warehouse reduces time spent looking for inventory, since they are familiar with the zone. If items are spread across multiple zones, then more time may be needed to organize inventory once it is collected for order(s)
Pick-to-Order Picking orders for one order at a time. Simplifies order fulfillment by because little sorting is required post-picking. Less efficient for the team member who is picking, since each order is collected independently, and may be across multiple categories.

To maximize your warehouse efficiency, we recommend using a combination of the above methods! Analyze your order profiles to figure out common patterns. For example, you might find that some items are often ordered together, or that some days or seasons have a higher volume of orders. 

Consider organizing your warehouse according to demand to make life easier for your pickers! Group high-demand items closer to the packing area, and low-demand items further away. This will make accessing your most often picked items easier for team members.  

If you have a smaller warehouse or a less diverse inventory, assigning workers to zones may not be necessary. However, in larger warehouses with a diverse inventory, we recommend assigning workers to specific zones and having them familiarize themselves with that section. When you do this, you spend less time looking for items!  

If you tend to get smaller orders with similar inventory, batch picking is always the way to go. When multiple orders have similar items, batch picking can significantly reduce the number of trips needed to pick these items. After the inventory has been retrieved, it can be sorted and sent on its way! 

There isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution, so try out each of these methods, and decide what works best for YOUR team.  

Schedule a Demo with TapGoods
Optimizing Warehouse Operations

Optimizing your Check-In Process for Efficiency

Once you have set up your layout, squared away inventory management, and established picking protocols, it’s time to address what happens after an order is completed. One of the best ways to throw your warehouse operations completely out of wack is to neglect checking-in procedures.  

If you don’t have a check-in procedure, you can expect to encounter the following challenges: 

  • Increased loss/damage: Without a system in place to inspect items as they return, damage or loss can go unnoticed until it’s too late. This could lead to higher replacement costs and potential disputes with customers over accountability. 
  • Inaccurate inventory levels: Without correct check-ins, the inventory levels in the management system may not reflect what’s available. This can lead to overbooking or unfulfilled orders, frustrating customers and teams that are picking orders. 
  • Decreased Productivity: A lack of procedure can result in inefficient use of staff time, as workers may spend unnecessary time trying to sort, inspect, and store items without clear guidelines.  

All of these issues can ultimately lead to frustrated teams, customers, and significant loss of revenue over time. It is important to take a proactive approach to prevent these issues from arising. So, if you’re optimizing warehouse operations, check out our step-by-step approach!

A Proactive Approach to Checking In (Step-by –Step)

1. Preparation

Set up a dedicated area in your warehouse for orders that are ready to be checked in. In this space, make sure that all tools (such as barcode scanners) are available and easy to access. Assign team members to each step of the check-in process, so that each step is performed thoroughly and accurately.  

Here are some examples of roles you may give team members during the check-in process: 

Job Role Assigned Task Purpose
Unloader Receive and unload items from the truck.  Unloads items from the truck. 
Inspector Thoroughly check items for damage or missing parts.  Documents item condition. 
Inventory Specialist Update inventory management system with return status of inventory.  Keeps inventory levels correct and up-to-date. 
Maintenance Perform required cleaning or repairs.  Makes sure items are not stored away before they are ready to rent again. 
Storage Coordinator Organize and store items in designated locations.  Puts items away in their designated section, which makes future retrieval easy and efficient. 

2. Notification

Use your system to keep track of when orders are expected to return to the warehouse and notify your team members accordingly. Make sure that all communication surrounding the return of orders is clear and easy to understand.  

3. Inspection

Have a team member conduct a thorough inspection of each returned item. Any damage or missing parts should be documented, and the next steps for damaged items should be known and documented. 

Any identified damage or wear and tear from the inspection phase should be addressed promptly. This could involve simple fixes, part replacements, or calling in a specialized technician for more complex repairs.  

Cleaning & Maintenance

Always assign a team member to handle the routine cleaning and maintenance of items upon their return. This is a crucial step that ensures that inventory is always in top condition for the next customer.  

Depending on the type of item, the cleaning process can range from simple wiping down to more complex procedures requiring specialized cleaning agents or equipment. For example, party equipment like tables and chairs may just need a wipe, while items like tents might need a deep cleaning to remove dirt and grime. Sanitization is also a critical step, especially for items that come into direct contact with users, like catering equipment or costumes.  

After cleaning and any necessary maintenance, your teams should conduct a final quality check to ensure that the item meets the company’s standards for the next rental.  

5. Updating Inventory

Once items are cleaned, repaired, and ready, update their status in your inventory management system. When you’re optimizing warehouse efficiency, you should always wait until all earlier steps are complete before you update inventory logs. This helps avoid any mistakes in the check-in process.  

If you do not wait for items to be ready, then you run the risk of inaccurately updating your inventory count, which can result in overbookings or loss of inventory. So be patient! By ensuring items are fully ready before they are listed as available, you avoid the need for last-minute checks or corrections.  

6. Put Inventory Away

Once all earlier steps have been completed, it is time to put the inventory away. Always make sure that your teams return inventory its designated area of the warehouse and is easy to access for later orders. This organization increases efficiency by ensuring that team members do not spend tons of time looking for inventory. 

Schedule a Demo with TapGoods

Continue Optimizing Warehouse Operations to Figure Out What Works for YOU!

Remember, you should continuously review and adjust processes as conditions change. Your business may grow, your team sizes will fluctuate, or you may move locations. Check in with your teams regularly to see what’s working and what’s not, and don’t be afraid to try something new!  

Other blogs you may find helpful: 

Best Practices for Pricing Rental Inventory with a Calculator 

5 Reports that Rental Businesses NEED to Review Frequently 

The Importance of Equipment and Party Rental Contracts in 2023 

Frequently Asked Questions

Your warehouse layout significantly affects how your teams perform their day-to-day activities. A poorly optimized layout may impede operations by making it difficult to find and pull items, unsafe to work around machinery, and team members will find it generally difficult to navigate their work environment. When you design your warehouse layout intentionally, workers can perform their jobs smoothly and efficiently. 

To make your warehouse more efficient, organize inventory by category or demand, ensuring high-demand items are closer to packing and shipping areas. Optimize aisle width to accommodate equipment and streamline movement. Implement technology for inventory tracking and use virtual picklists to speed up order processing. 

To optimize the storage process, start by sorting and categorizing incoming inventory, then document and update new inventory levels in a management system. Place items in designated areas based on category for easy access, and employ technologies that facilitate real-time tracking and efficient inventory management. 

When inventory returns to your warehouse, make sure that your workers are performing the following process:  

  1. Inspection: Inspect all items upon return to the warehouse for damage or missing parts. 
  2. Cleaning & Maintenance: Clean all items and prepare them for the next rental. 
  3. Update Inventory: After you perform an inspection for all items on the truck, update your rental management system with the status of the order. 
  4. Put Inventory Away: Have team member(s) return all items to their designated zones in the warehouse. 

Warehouse design optimization is the process of arranging a warehouse’s layout and operations to improve efficiency and use of space. This means that you should set up the warehouse so that goods move smoothly, storage is used effectively, and work processes are streamlined. The aim is to make it easier to access inventory, reduce the time and cost of handling goods, and make the warehouse safer and more productive.