How to improve the receiving process in a warehouse

published on 18 August 2021

In an e-commerce fulfillment process, warehouse receiving is the very first step, which is why it needs to be seamless and accurate. It includes delivering, unloading, and storing inventory in the warehouse or fulfillment center. Being central to the whole retail supply chain, it is essential for the receiving process to be as efficient and cost-effective as possible. Identifying errors and discrepancies early in the process helps to prevent bigger problems during the picking, packing, or shipping of inventory. Hence, it is important for businesses to realize the impact of a well-established receiving process on the entire fulfillment cycle.

Typical Warehouse Receiving Process Flow 

Pre-Receiving

Before receiving a shipment, business owners need to complete pre-receiving tasks to ensure smooth movement and delivery of stocks to the warehouse. In most cases, a Warehouse Receiving Order (WRO) label is created containing essential package details. These details are encoded in barcodes attached to every shipment, making it easier to scan and verify the received products through the receiving module of the Warehouse software 

Receiving and Unloading Stocks

Once the inbound shipment reaches the warehouse, the receiving staff unloads the cargo. Having full details of the inventory beforehand is helpful in optimizing the receiving process. Depending on the size and volume of the incoming consignment, warehouse operators can allocate employees as well as heavy machinery like pallet jacks and forklifts efficiently. Digital Warehouse software leverages data and advanced analytics to recommend the optimal allocation of workers and equipment needed for shortening the dock-to-stock cycle.

Inspection of received inventory

Damaged products, broken seals, lost items, a mismatch in product SKU or other details are verified at the time of unloading. The products received should match the contents listed on the WRO and any discrepancy or damaged product is kept aside to be discussed with the manufacturer. This is essential for preventing any faulty item from reaching the customer. It is also important to capture the details during the inspection process in the QA module of the warehouse software to identify patterns and prevent and minimize future errors. 

Read Also: Digital Transformation of the Warehouse

Putaway

Once all the cargo is inspected and unloaded, the person in charge of receiving acknowledges the same. Inventory numbers are assigned to the products, after which they are segregated as per size, category, expiry date and other parameters. They are then sent for storage in the warehouse. Details of the inventory received, damaged products, and where it is stored, is updated in the system. In warehouses that are not digitized yet, the putaway process tends to be inefficient since the warehouse associates spend time locating the storage shelves through a suboptimal path. Such inefficiencies can be addressed through putaway optimization algorithms inbuilt into warehouse operating software. These algorithms can optimize the putaway route, sequence, and handle FEFO compliance.

<i>Image Source: Unsplash</i>
Image Source: Unsplash

Common problems businesses face in warehouse receiving

A typical warehouse deals with several problems on a daily basis. Some of these include:

● Long waiting times for the inbound trucks to unload as docks are backed up.

● Forklift operators loading pallets prematurely, creating gaps in the inventory.

● Disorganized storage leading to suboptimal space utilization.

● Inefficient staffing of associates due to lack of system-driven work.

● Lack of awareness of the work processes amongst the workforce.

● Inaccurate inventory tracking, resulting in misplaced and lost inventory.

Not only do these issues cause the warehouse to end up wasting time and resources, but also slows down the order fulfilment cycle, leading to a decrease in customer satisfaction.

Enforcing some changes in the receiving process, to make it streamlined and efficient, can resolve most of these issues. Let us see how the receiving processes can be further improved using smart warehouse systems.

How can the warehouse receiving process be improved?

Improving the efficiency of the receiving process in a warehouse reduces the raw material to finished goods conversion cycles for manufacturing businesses. It can improve the order lead times for retail and e-commerce businesses. 

Here are some of the ways in which goods receiving processes can be improved and made error-free:

Implement a modern warehouse system. 

There are a plethora of processes involved in the goods receipt process that can be time-consuming and tedious to perform. Manually tracking and documenting tasks such as inventory movement, labor & equipment availability, and product details, makes them error prone.

Modern warehouse software solutions can help businesses automate and optimize these mundane tasks and reduce unnecessary errors. Implementing a robust warehouse system can help plan the inbound inventory movement more efficiently to avoid overflow, excess inventory. On the other hand, it can also predict potential stock out situations and trigger replenishment orders.

Tracking the right metrics

Gathering data at every step of the receiving process is not good enough. The data should be analyzed to identify trends and patterns for the root causes.

Warehouse systems with inbuilt analytics and reporting capability can help in tracking metrics such as:

● Dock to stock cycle time

● Inventory stored at every location

● Putaway items per hour

● Average storage cost per unit

● Truck turnaround times at dock

The metrics function as the most important ingredient for designing and implementing effective systems that reduce cycle time and errors. 

Use a well-defined labeling structure

Using a well-defined labeling structure that incorporates modern technologies like barcoding, RFID tags, and automated pallet management systems makes it easier for warehouse operators to instantly update stock information into the system as soon as they unload.

Having detailed information about your inventory gives you more control along with insights into the supplier's performance as it relates to lead times, reliability, and quality.

Manage labor & booking efficiently

Labor expenses amount to 50 to 70 percent of the warehousing operating budget, making it the largest cost line item.

Efficient system-driven workforce management prevents under or over-allocation of resources and helps in balancing workload. Warehouse software can automate effective workforce management, thereby keeping up productivity levels, and avoiding injuries and safety incidents.  

To conclude

Receiving is one of the most critical processes in the warehouse goods movement process. Hence, an efficient and error-free receiving is essential for the smooth functioning of an otherwise complicated order fulfillment process. It is more critical than ever to automate and digitize the receiving process to be in sync with the changing business dynamics. This will translate into faster business growth and more revenue.

Interested in learning more about how to automate and digitize the receiving process?

Explore Hopstack's Digital Warehouse Software that leverages advanced machine learning algorithms to optimize the goods receiving process.

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