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October 24, 2023
Expert Q&A: what shippers need to know about warehouse efficiency
“My goal is to make sure the warehouse dock is never a roadblock to shipping,” says Michael Lardakis, the Director of Logistics for Reach Logistics.

He’s right. Warehouse efficiency is the key to getting products out on time and sets you up for smooth shipping even on the busiest of days.

“If the box gets on the truck efficiently, the truck typically gets to the customer on time. That is the easiest way to sum it up,” says Jordan Moskovitz, a Manager of Continuous Improvement for Amazon Freight Operations. “When a warehouse makes a mistake and delays the driver, the problem is always magnified later on.”

Moskovitz has spent decades in big-box retail and logistics positions and has first-hand experience running warehouse operations. We sat down with him to learn more about how shippers can improve their warehouses so their loads can get off the docks safely and quickly.

Q: Let’s start at the top: What is your number one piece of advice for shippers when it comes to warehouse management?
You have to have a plan. It sounds obvious, I know, but it is the key. During my career I haven’t seen enough leaders have plans in place and it always came back to haunt them. You almost need to overplan everything and have the mentality to prepare for the worst and hope for the best.

That is how you drive the right outcomes. Things are going to break, and some mornings you’re going to have employees out for whatever reason. I’ve found the most success in creating an action-based playbook so you and your team are ready to solve problems the moment they happen.

Q: Do you have any guidance on what to include in such a playbook?
Start with safety and key resources. On page one, I always had the information for the local fire and police departments so I was prepared for any safety-related situations. After that, I recommend including information about your key team members outside of the building and how to contact them. Identify on-site senior leadership, contact information, who is on call when, and who to contact for specific situations. Then, you can expand regional or territory leadership as part of an escalation matrix.

If issues threaten performance, you want to route them to your senior leadership and critical shipping stakeholders. If you are going to miss, it is better to be proactive for customer impact rather than reactive.

Q: How have you seen technology deployed in warehouses to improve operations?
Undoubtedly, technology has revolutionized logistics, particularly right on the warehouse floor. Large warehouses are using the latest tech every day to help get packages out the door faster. Now, I know most shippers are operating at a smaller scale, but there are some areas I recommend exploring.

An effective new development has been in the use of wearables in the warehouse, such as augmented reality headsets or wrist-mounted barcode scanners, that can guide employees to the exact location of items. It reduces search times and errors, and enhances the accuracy and speed of order picking. Employees can receive real-time information, such as order quantities and packing instructions, which are also significant time savers.

I’m also seeing more and more workers use automation and robotics, and warehouses are fertile ground for their use. Machines can perform a wide range of tasks, from sorting and packing to transporting goods within the walls of the warehouse. Automatically guided vehicles and mobile robots can reduce demand on warehouse staff by completing repetitive and physically demanding tasks.

I wish I had tech like this when I was first starting out!

Q: Any other parting tips from a warehouse veteran?
You know, in my experience, it really boils down to the little things.

Make sure you are familiar with the different parts of the building and where the supplies are. You'd be shocked by how often you run out of critical items in warehouses. Somebody should be inspecting that often, daily during peak periods, especially for a vital supply that will shut down the business like a shipping label. Have an escalation plan for when these supplies drop below thresholds defined for each site (this goes back to my advice about having a playbook!).

I’d also call out the importance of preventative maintenance. If your warehouse has conveyance, forklifts, and any other business-critical devices, stay ahead of their maintenance schedules.

That starts with the simple act of checking batteries. One of my first days on the job at a warehouse years ago, our scanners ran out of batteries and we didn’t have instructions on where replacements were. I haven’t forgotten that and don’t want you to either!

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