Warehouse Tour? Do it!

Posted by Speed Commerce on July 16, 2015

A warehouse tour is a MUST for any retailer looking to outsource fulfillment.

The on-site tour will help you get a good understanding of what happens from the time your product hits the receiving dock until it’s on the carrier’s truck. And, you’ll get that valuable personal interaction with the people that will manage your merchandise.

You’ll no doubt come prepared with a list of questions for the fulfillment vendor you are evaluating, but what should you pay extra attention to? We’ve compiled a list of 5 key areas:

Organization

Organization is a pretty broad category, including general layout of the warehouse and tidiness. But, there are a few specific areas that you will want to pay extra attention to.

  • Product arrangement: How will your products fit into this space? Does each retailer have a dedicated footprint or are the products mingled with other merchants’ inventory?
  • Clutter: Clutter is a bad sign. Are the products/boxes neatly stacked? Or are there boxes and pallets all over the place?

A well-organized warehouse means inventory is less likely to be lost and replenishment can be done more easily making pick/pack processes more efficient.

Technology

The use of technology is key in any warehouse. Notice how the warehouse staff uses technology to track your inventory, pick and replenish products, as well as prepare for outbound shipping.

Technology provides the fulfillment provider greater efficiencies while giving you and your team greater insight into your business.

Picking Process

To the untrained eye, the inner workings of the warehouse may seem slightly chaotic. If you watch closely, you’ll soon see a process. The picking process may vary by warehouse and by each business being fulfilled within the warehouse.

The options range from a highly automated process to manual. There’s really no “right way” to pick. It’s typically based on product profile and the procedures that work best for each retailer’s specific requirements.

Density

How well is the fulfillment provider using their space? Your inventory should be closely stored to reduce your warehouse footprint.

Look for picking locations that are engineered to allow pickers to walk and pass easily, but not so spread-out. You want to make sure you’re not losing efficiencies.

People

You’re meeting the people that could very well be representing your brand – from the people driving the forklifts to the managers taking part in your tour. More than likely, you’ll have some interaction with or an opportunity to meet:

  • The material handlers – pickers, packers, receivers, stockers, assemblers, returns staff.
  • Inventory clerk
  • Warehouse supervisors
  • Operations/Warehouse Managers
  • Safety Manager

Do they appear confident about what they are doing? How is the overall vibe?

Warehouse tours are part of the final phase of the evaluation criteria and will help you gain a better understanding of what happens to your product while it’s at the fulfillment provider’s facility.

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