When it comes to logistics networks, like warehouses, it can be difficult to keep track of all the moving pieces. From inventory management to distribution, a warehouse’s success relies greatly on effective communication.
Unfortunately, with many warehouses spanning more than 25,000 square feet, traditional communication methods are no longer applicable. Warehouses previously were less than 10,000 square feet, but increased demand means this is no longer the case.
So, how do you keep your warehouse operating efficiently? There are a lot of facets, but the key one is determining effective communication channels.
Equip employees with phones & radios
Mobile devices are the crux of portable communication, which is essential for warehouse workers that are always on the move. More warehouse managers are beginning to equip their employees with smartphones in attempts to streamline one-on-one communications.
However, while smartphones might seem like a more contemporary implementation, there are still advantages to using two-way radios instead. For starters, two-way radios offer a quicker and more direct connection to their point-of-contact. No dialing, no voicemails, no ringing. They’re also more durable, which is essential in heavy-duty warehouse work.
Furthermore, they’re far more reliable in emergency situations. Two-way radios don’t rely on a finicky cellular connection. So, when cell networks are compromised or overcrowded, two-way radios are not impacted.
So, while supplying your employees with work phones is one way to optimize communications within your warehouse, a two-way radio system is far and away the best solution for connecting different departments, such as inventory, distribution, and supervision.
Invest in a PA system
Just as important as an efficient one-on-one communication solution is a mass communication solution. Supervisors and managers must have a way to convey messages to warehouse employees en masse. As such, a warehouse-wide intercom or PA system is a must-have.
Wireless PA systems are the best way to coordinate your staff and make announcements in emergencies, or during training.
PA systems can come with multiple speakers, depending on the size of your warehouse and the number of employees you have. Many PA systems even have a two-mile reach. With a PA system in place, it’s important to have a strict chain-of-command. Limit PA announcements to certain departments, such as quality assurance, security, management, and human resources. This prevents false alarms.
Distributing wearable GPS devices to your staff is another way to streamline warehouse operations. These help you keep track of various warehouse employees, which directly impacts the way you communicate.
Wearable GPS devices can be carried on the hip or on the wrist. They help you locate warehouse employees on-demand, which allows managers and supervisors to properly delegate tasks based on an employee’s proximity to areas or departments in need of help.
A 2018 study by MHI found that approximately 70% of facilities expect to incorporate wearables within the next five years.
Since equipping all of your employees with wearables might cause some interference, it’s best to limit these to new-hires or free-floating employees without a specific department who help only where help is needed. Floor managers and supervisors should also always be equipped with wearables so that fellow management members can locate them at all times.
Utilize a cloud-driven software
It’s time to ditch the clipboards. Keeping track of inventory on a cloud-based software is the best solution for auditing stock and communicating data between departments. Electronic point-of-sale (EPOS) systems are especially essential in warehouses.
Some believe that EPOS systems are only good for accepting orders, but they can also survey stock levels, send order reminders, and keep track of quarterly sales data.
Inventory management software like EPOS (and others) help organize workflow and ensure crucial order dates are not missed. It can help prevent severe backlogging and shortages. There are also custom software solutions available, in the event that your process is a little different.
Ensure the software you choose is cloud-based, as it prevents data loss and will ensure all departments and members can access the information they need. As soon as you can, think about using a WMS software solution because it will greatly improve your warehouse management.
Develop a clear structure
Implementing communication protocols doesn’t strictly come down to using tools and technologies. It’s just as important to have an established chain-of-command and regular in-person check-ins. Face-to-face communication is always the most accurate and reliable way to get information across, so establish a safe space where workers can come in and discuss concerns or ideas.
Having department-wide meetings at the start of each work day is one way to ensure team members are staying engaged and in touch with the day’s tasks.
Also, have a clearly structured chain-of-command, so that employees know exactly who to go to when issues arise. It is also essential that warehouse employees always have direct access to a manager or supervisor, so individuals in higher positions should carry two-way radios as well.
Warehouse jobs can be particularly stressful due to the constant coordination between departments, the strict deadlines, and the client demands. However, with the right communication strategies in place, a warehouse can become a well-oiled machine of supply and demand.