Warehouse Operational Efficiency Contributing Factors

Managing Warehouse Operations is akin to playing a symphony with people, systems, and processes. As long as these elements are balanced and in harmony the operations go on smoothly and efficiently.


People are very important assets of warehouse operations. Human resources can be the strongest and the weakest link to warehouse performance.

Even in a highly automated and system controlled design, warehouse operations are heavily dependant upon people to run and manage operations.

Typically in warehouse operations, besides management structure, the operations resource categories are MHE Operators, Operations staff who manage shipments, put away, material picking tasks and other operations including labeling, packing, kitting, inventory counting, documentation and systems operators. These resources are mainly categorized as team leaders and operators.

Normally in warehouse operations, the manpower resources structure is employed in a mix of, on the company role jobs, on contract and temporary or daily wages and outsourced contract labor. The categorization is based on the nature and skill set requirement of each job coupled with criticality of the position and the local supply and availability of resources.

Workforce - Qty, Job Structure

Many times in 3rd party managed warehouses, workforce strength is often an issue that affects the operational efficiency. It has been noticed several times that few local managements try to cut corners by understaffing at various levels and extending the working hours or job responsibilities and trying to save costs. There can be several instances of shortage of manpower from the strength that has been planned and budgeted for.

Any warehouse operations needs to have an optimum workforce budgeted based on clear-cut tasks and volumes of transactions. As all operations are time bound activities having inter-related tasks and dependencies, estimation of work and work division clarity is essential to avoid overstaffing or understaffing. Overstaffing can result in slackness in individual performance levels besides increasing the costs.

Warehouse activities very often are found to be seasonal and cyclical. The business type and seasons resulting in peak seasons and low seasons place similar demands on the warehouse to step up operational throughputs or cut down on operations. Besides internal requirement also creates temporary demand for workforce. Extra teams are called for during year-end operations, annual wall to wall stock takes or any internal inventory exercises, etc.

Warehouses source temporary labor and resources from local nearby areas to mange this sudden surge in demands. Any change in internal process or business process or improvement in systems and processes can lead to redundancies. Many times, they are having to face over staffing problems and need to look at ways to reduce numbers or re deploy resources into other activities. Therefore, warehouse operations are never in a stable state or status quo for a long time. Managing people dynamics holds key to managing operations effectively.

Right skill sets

In warehousing operations, process and system compliance demands keen focus and discipline at all levels. The skill sets and attitude requirements are different for different jobs. The skill set requirement is more linked to attitude and functional capability of the persons and less dependant upon knowledge or educational qualification.

Any person who works on Forklift would need to have a good sense of control, direction, and patience. Similarly, a picker would need to be able to identify and have a feel of locations, Inventory SKU types and be able to identify the part numbers, description.

At operating level, people are required to understand what is expected of them, be able to follow the process and comply with the process and instructions. The operations require manual dexterity and ability to be on feet for long durations besides being able to bend down and reach up constantly to pick up items. Ability to lift small weights and walking distances in the warehouse are a Must Have strengths. These practical points have to be kept in mind and evaluated while hiring people.

Attitude and Outlook

It has been seen in warehouse operations that the workforce attitude towards the company, job and customer plays an important role in the operations. Studies done in various cases have shown a direct link between people’s attitude and commitment to day to day operations. Wrong shipments, short shipments and defective deliveries coupled with warehouse equipment damage, misuse and accidents are few of the results of the problems that show up and need correction of attitudes at individual levels. Inventory management functions are highly vulnerable to individual performance and attention to detail.

A good warehousing operations management team who is sensitive to the above factors and is equipped to manage a team and the dynamics would be successful in ensuring efficient operations.

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