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Agile Warehouse Management: What Does It Mean and How Do You Achieve It?

Posted by Paula Hise

What comes to mind when you hear the word agility? For many, thoughts of famous athletes or wild animals known for quickness, speed, and explosive movements come to mind. For logistics and supply chain professionals, our minds race straight toward our daily operations, with warehouse management being one of the first thoughts in line.

Kenco_Blog_Agility in Warehouse Management_Hero

Agility in warehouse management is a key characteristic of any successful, adaptable organization, and realizing what it truly means, along with the simple steps needed to achieve it, is vital in optimizing your business’s overall operations.

We decided to make your life easier by answering the following questions:

What is agility in warehouse management?

In warehouse management, agility is the ability to pivot direction quickly in your operations and nimbly respond to changing internal and external signals.

There are major, complex pivots, and minor, simple pivots. The former can include introducing new product lines, complying with new, more stringent regulations, or a facility or technology infrastructure change, while the latter can involve reacting to unexpected volumes and forecasts. To be truly agile in warehouse management, you need agility across all levels of your operations, both strategically and tactically in terms of your execution.

Kenco_Blog_Agility in Warehouse Management_Agile Checklist

Why is it crucial to your operations?

Today’s market is extremely competitive. Customers have increasingly high expectations and retailers have the ability to enforce penalties if service is not to their satisfaction. For example, our customers can incur chargebacks or fines of ~2-5% of the invoice if the delivery windows are not met. These windows can be as close to within 15 minutes of the contracted time, so in order to create value for our customers and avoid fines throughout the year, we must remain agile and flexible enough to avoid these scenarios.

3PL providers must also be flexible in meeting the increasingly demanding expectations of today’s consumer. In warehousing, if volume starts hitting unexpectedly, your operations need to ensure they are not creating penalty charges for customers or falling behind on service commitments. Buildup in the warehouse trickles all the way down to the end consumer and we guarantee any complaints filed will make their way back to your organization.

How do you achieve it?

The first steps toward achieving agility in warehouse management are through not only hiring, but engaging the best talent and having the right assortment of technology:

Hiring/engaging the best talentKenco_Blog_Agility in Warehouse Management_Hiring

The warehousing labor market has hit an all-time high in scarcity, allowing associates to have their pick when it comes to choosing which company to sign with. Having high levels of employee engagement and being able to respond to changing employee expectations and preferences is key to achieving agile warehouse management operations.

Kenco uses a Gallup survey to measure employee satisfaction and engagement, year over year, to analyze improvements and understand any shortcomings. We also engage employees at all levels by involving them in process improvement activities, which not only yields high engagement, but makes operations more efficient, reduces waste, and provides agility from a cost perspective, leveraging the best ideas in our organization.

The right assortment of technology

Having the right assortment of technology, tools, and systems in place is arguably the most direct approach to achieving warehouse agility. Using tools like business intelligence software, which aggregate data and put it into easy to understand visual displays, will provide your operators and Kenco_Blog_Agility in Warehouse Management_Predictive Analyticswarehouse employees with actionable insights to deal with unforeseen disruptions. Predictive analytics are also key in adapting to smaller pivots, like unexpected volume, through leveraging data trends to predict future disruptions.

We are seeing more emerging technology for how to further automate and improve warehouse management after decades of what has felt like stagnant innovation and progression, so making sure you stay on top of these advancements is vital to remaining competitive in the market.

There is no one-size-fits-all solution to enabling truly agile warehouse management. Agility, in any sense of the word, requires a commitment to the various processes needed to achieve that end result. Employing an engaged workforce that is dedicated to rolling with the daily supply-chain punches, and empowering them and your overall operations with leading, innovative technologies, will put your organization well along the path toward agile warehouse management..

Paula Hise

Written by Paula Hise

Group Vice President - Healthcare and Pharmaceuticals

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Kenco Logistics

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Kenco provides integrated logistics solutions that include distribution and fulfillment, comprehensive transportation management, material handling services, real estate management, and information technology—all engineered for Operational Excellence.