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Warehouse Operations: Optimising your Receiving Process

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warehouse operations receiving goods unloading a container

It’s a challenge for small and mid-size warehouse operations to overcome inefficiencies. One common problem that surfaces during our reviews of warehouses and their operational requirements is a lack of standard processes and specialisation within the warehouse.

As the problem is more common than you would think, we have decided to provide an overview of the tasks that should be happening within each of the receiving, put-away, storage, pick & pack, and shipping processes.

We will outline some technologies and best practices to increase warehouse efficiency, reduce errors, and increase safety.

What is the Warehouse Receiving Objective?

The receiving process is the first point of contact and is crucial to running an efficient warehouse operation. The receiving objective is to receive the right product in the right condition, weight, and dimensions, and the right quantities, all at the right time.

The correct receiving of goods will have a direct impact on all subsequent warehouse processes. So let’s look more closely.

Action Steps Pre-receiving goods

Before the goods arrive, it needs to be prepared in the correct format for your warehouse operations receiving process to run efficiently.

You need to establish and enforce your receiving requirements for suppliers, shippers, and/or carriers. The pre-receiving objective is for the cargo to be presented in a way that is quick and easy to process.

It would be best if you worked with suppliers to coordinate packaging requirements such as:

•        Where labels are positioned

•        What information is included on the label

•        Are the goods palletised or loose cargo

•        The number of packages per pallet

•        The number of items per carton

•        What are the acceptable package sizes & weights

In the situation where shippers or customers don’t have control over packaging, you must communicate to them that you require them to provide clear, detailed information and notify the warehouse of new incoming shipments.

As many warehouse managers are aware, often freight forwarders receive cargo that doesn’t clearly state who the consignee or final recipient is.

The next challenge is the carriers. Very often, they fail to organise and load their cargo according to the order of the delivery route. This results in other company’s cargo being unloaded at your site to reach the goods being delivered to you.

The unloading and reloading of other company’s goods are time-consuming and can draw on staff and equipment resources to assist them in clearing your loading docks quickly. Another problem is drivers not having all required documentation in hand when they arrive at the receiving area.

To minimise these issues, warehouse managers should inform all carriers that proper documentation must be in hand upon arrival, and cargo must be organised for immediate unloading.

You may also wish to advise carriers your business will not be responsible for delays or penalties resulting from poorly organised loads.

It is important to keep track of suppliers, shippers, and carriers that create the most problems for your business and, where possible avoid using them.

Finally, whenever possible, receive cargo as palletised. Not only will this assist you to speed up the receiving process, but it will also reduce cargo damage and assist in speeding up subsequent warehouse processes.

What are Labour HeadCount and Booking Procedures

Labour is among the highest of warehouse operational costs; matching workload demand with workforce headcount is critical.

To improve the warehouse operations receiving process and be cost-effective, you need to allocate the right number of man-hours and headcount. Where you fail to properly account for the volume and type of cargo coming through the doors results in under or over-allocation of human resources.

To avoid the under or over-allocation of resources and experiencing a collapsing receiving process, warehouse managers are best served to define times and dates when cargo will be received. Setting times is a decision of the warehouse manager and not the carriers.

By setting what cargo comes in and at what time, warehouse managers can match workload demand with workforce supply.

An effective way to accomplish this and be organised is to use booking or scheduling software. Carriers can pre-book the delivery, and you can review and process the bookings.

In some cases, this option might be impractical, for example, parcel carriers. However, you can set up “on-demand receiving teams” and allocate specific docks for larger volumes of goods to process carriers that will not comply with this requirement or drivers that missed their appointments.

The Objectives of Unloading Goods 

The primary objective during the unloading process is to unload goods safely and efficiently. 

Depending on the goods you manage, part of this process can include checking seals and validating the booking reference. In the case of perishable goods recording temperature data too. Once the checks are completed, assign a bay and start the unloading process.

For the unloading process to be efficient, you need to ensure that the labour hours are properly allocated, and the right equipment is available.

When unloading palletised cargo, keep in mind it is not only about speed, but safety is imperative.

If a forklift truck is used, receiving staff must ensure the truck being unloaded is properly docked, and emergency brakes are on. This will ensure the truck’s trailer can handle the weight and container integrity is not compromised. 

Where loose cargo is being unloaded from a container, you must avoid this being done by hand. Not only is it not inefficient, but it exposes staff to the risk of injury from excessive bending and stretching, particularly for heavier items.

For the unloading of loose cargo, you should consider the use of conveyors. While regular conveyors will assist reduce inefficiencies and increasing staff safety, using telescopic boom conveyors will dramatically reduce safety hazards and processing time.

Using the conveyor allows receiving staff to commence the sorting process within the container, saving additional time.

person verifying goods delivered

What is the Process for Verification of Deliveries?

A standard verification process of deliveries is the final step in the receiving process. The verification process confirms the quantity received, description of goods, product codes, and condition of goods – whether damaged or not.

Depending on the type of goods received, it may also be necessary to conduct a more stringent verification entailing checking weight, dimensions, temperature, batch and lot numbers, and serial codes.

An important step in the verification process is to record and report any discrepancies between what is expected and what is received.

A time-consuming and labour-intensive task is counting and verifying damaged cargo. Careful management of the receiving and unloading process can reduce the likelihood of damage

For companies that need to count one item at a time, warehouse technologies such as RFIDs or barcode scanners integrated with the Warehouse Management System (WMS) are pivotal to speeding up counting and reducing errors.

For companies requiring evidence to their suppliers of the state where goods were received, digital cameras installed on conveyors or freight dimensioning systems integrated with the WMS can significantly increase the speed of an image-capturing process. Image/s are then shared through the WMS portal or mobile applications.

If your warehouse operations are required to verify cargo weight and dimensions, weighing scales integrated with the parcel-pallet dimensioning system and the WMS are excellent options for capturing all this information quickly and without error.

Warehouse managers can also take the approach of conducting random checks and keeping a record of all missing and/or damaged goods and their supplier, shipper, and/or carrier. When enough data is collected, receiving personnel can focus on improving those suppliers, shippers, and carriers with the most recurrent problems. Warehouse managers can also use this data to make these companies aware of the problem.

To operate efficiently, warehouse operations must start with an organised receiving process with the correct checks and guidelines for standard tasks.

A warehouse design and layout considers how your warehouse operations should work to optimise your warehouse, efficiency, and safety. However, a lack of process-orientated operations can be a challenge in even the best-designed warehouse.

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