From the first time inventory enters your warehouse it needs to be identified and put into storage. Sounds easy right. Yet often in warehouse operations the putaway process is not optimized which leads to inefficiencies and errors.
Often when there is confusion of where inventory is located within the warehouse it can be traced back to how the putaway was executed. This can be especially problematic when you are dealing with a high number of inventory items and orders.
That said let’s look at a few ways the putaway process can be optimized so that your inventory and warehouse management can be improved.
Let’s examine first what the putaway is. The putaway is part of the overall inventory replenishment process. It is closely associated to the receiving process but for items that will be actively stored, unlike cross-docking activities where inventory is received and then immediately shipped out on outbound trucks. It is a crucial part of the inventory management and order fulfilment process given that it ensures that inventory is stored in the proper locations and areas of the warehouse. A good putaway process, like any well-defined process, supports your other warehouse processes.
When it comes to putaway strategies there are few that can be utilized to best meet your needs. If your business orders tend to be based around product trends, sales volume, and seasonality a dynamic putaway strategy may best suit you. This involves inventory being putaway in locations for ease of fulfilment based on the volume of demand. This optimizes picking which boosts the efficiency of the order fulfilment process. The drawback is that products can change locations often depending on the variables in product demand and so clear tracking with a WMS is a must.
A direct putaway strategy is where the inventory is immediately assigned a storage location within the warehouse without setting it aside in a temporary location until it can be putaway. The idea is to make the inventory ready for picking as quickly as possible. A WMS is also suggested here as inventory and a suitable storage location can be identified immediately (if not prior) upon receiving.
In fixed location, putaway locations are reserved for specific product types as defined by the warehouse. With this strategy inventory will always be stored in the same area or location. This creates a certain amount of predictability with putaway and picking. The only drawback is that it may not maximize storage capacity as items may not be able to be stored in a particular location due to certain pre-defined parameters.
Having a defined putaway process will be important to maximizing your warehouse storage. A WMS will go a long way in helping to ensure that your putway process is well managed. With a WMS you can set parameters for products that will let the system suggest to workers where inventory should be stored, and which space can be used to maximize your storage capacity. This will help to avoid clutter and confusion and will help organize your warehouse.
As well you can optimize the time it takes to get product from your docks to a location by creating putaway routes. Putaway routes help plan the most efficient path to take in the warehouse to help guide warehouse workers as they bring inventory to a location for storage. These routes are planned out and defined by your WMS. Workers thus spend less walking the warehouse to put items away which boosts productivity and efficiency.
Think also about who you’re storing product for and volume demand. If you have products that are for one customer that has a high volume of orders, it might make sense to dedicate storage space for their inventory only. And for high volume items a case can be made for making them easily accessible and closer to packing or shipping locations as they will be needed more often. By planning for these types of trends you can isolate which locations and areas are most suitable for these items which will improve your putaway.
Having a WMS will also help you to plan out and standardize your putaway process. By tracking inbound inventory and having a clearly define workflow the system will indicate to workers where items should be stored, which take priority (for example items that require special storage like frozen goods), set timeframes from when items enter the warehouse and when they should be putaway, keep track of what items have been putaway, where, and what’s next. This will help with congestion issues, traffic flow, and idle periods where inventory is sitting waiting to be putaway.
Introducing scanning technology is another great way to improve putaway processes. For example, in tandem with your WMS workers can immediately scan inbound inventory and be given a list of suggested locations of where to store items along with the route to take in doing so. Once they arrive at the intended location it and the inventory can be scanned to confirm the intended location and in the case of a mistake be advised. Scanners and barcodes thus help with the mobility of the putaway process as well as reducing the likelihood of misplacing items.
As we can see having a well-defined putaway process can have tremendous benefits for your warehouse and inventory management. By applying the correct strategies and augmenting your inventory management with supporting technology, like a WMS and scanning, your putaway process will become more predictable and reliable. In doing so you not only improve your putaway but other processes like receiving and order fulfilment. Your warehouse will thus become more efficient and productive which will have a positive impact on your entire business.
If you’re looking at improving your inventory and warehouse management, click the link below and get in contact with us. We’d be happy to speak with you!