Best practices continue to evolve for warehouses and distribution centers alike, but the distribution center is undergoing more rapid transformation due to its importance in the new retail economy.
However, many of the following practices have well-established benefits:
- Distribution ERP software is now essentially a necessity for any well-run distribution center. This software helps streamline multiple data flows into a single platform, which is key when dealing with the hive of constant activity that often characterizes distribution centers.
- For businesses struggling with pick times at their distribution centers, consider implementing alternative technologies that can make picking more efficient. Businesses that don’t already have barcode or RFID scanners should work to correct that right away — but other technologies can help as well. That includes innovative options like pick-to-voice and pick-to-light, which can lessen the learning curve for newcomers and create more streamlined systems.
Investigate options such as cross-docking that have been used elsewhere in the industry with great success. Naturally, not every business has the warehouse space or logistical capacity for this. Nonetheless, simply understanding the concept (used by numerous power players like Walmart) can offer some illuminating principles on increasing efficiency.
For organizations that aren’t used to running warehouses and distribution centers differently, these concepts can take some time to fully grasp and implement. The current supply chain model, with its outsized importance of distribution centers, is relatively young and has not yet reached full maturity. Thus, perhaps the best long-term advice for both warehouses and distribution centers is to maintain flexibility, stay current on the technical side and recognize the unique places in the supply chain that they occupy.