Why Ecommerce Warehouse Inspections Are Necessary and Best Practices to Follow

Looking to manage a warehouse? Here are some questions to consider:

  • What will I do to keep my employees safe?
  • How will I ensure security of my inventory?
  • How can I make the most of the space to enable productivity?

Without inventory, you can’t make a sale. And without your staff, you can’t meet customer expectations. And what goes on behind the scenes is just as important as what your customers experience.

Warehouse inspections are a component of warehouse management that aim to protect your staff and your inventory while also improving internal processes. 

In this article, we discuss why warehouse inspections are important and the difference inspections worth carrying out.

What are warehouse inspections?

A warehouse inspection, sometimes referred to as a “warehouse audit,” involves a list of documented processes that must be followed to ensure employee safety, inventory security, and optimized workflows and procedures. 

The different parts of a warehouse that are important to monitor and document include: 

Why are warehouse inspections necessary yet challenging?

Ensuring employee safety and establishing better processes within your warehouse can significantly improve productivity, creating a more resilient supply chain while keeping your logistics costs low.

By identifying opportunities for improvement, warehouse inspections help to ensure you’re following OSHA’s standards and that you and your team have done everything you can to reduce risk. 

Warehouse inspections can also identify inefficiencies in your warehouse setup, so you can discover ways to establish a more efficient supply chain. As you look for ways to ensure safety, you’ll also likely find ways to improve workflows. 

Though necessary, warehouse inspections can be challenging since they involve a lot of time and attention to detail. There is also pressure to ensure that everything has been checked and accounted for to avoid accidents, OSHA fines, or even lawsuits.

7 warehouse inspections you need to carry out

There are a lot of moving parts within a warehouse. That’s why inspections are often broken down into different categories to make it much easier to manage. Here are seven of the most common warehouse inspections that are important for ecommerce brands to carry out. 

1. Cleanliness and sanitation warehouse inspection

At the start of the pandemic, logistics operators enabled a more strict cleanliness process to ensure essential workers stayed safe. Years after the pandemic, however, health inspections within a warehouse will remain a top priority.

Daily (or even hourly) cleanliness and sanitation inspections are essential to maintain the health and safety of your employees while reducing the spread of viruses. The inspection would check that certain procedures are being followed, such as:  

  • Posted guidelines to enforce basic hygiene habits (e.g., washing hands)
  • Cleaned and sanitized rest or kitchen areas where people gather
  • Enforcement of equipment sanitization protocols
  • Proper training on handling hazardous materials
  • PPE equipment offered for all, including masks and gloves
  • Wiped down work stations before and after shifts
  • Restocking cleaning supplies
  • Ensuring bathrooms are cleaned daily or more often

2. Waste storage and disposal inspection

Is warehouse waste being stored and disposed of in a safe manner?

Waste can be a safety hazard, especially with the disposal of flammable substances, toxic and infectious substances, gases, and corrosive substances. If dealing with liquid items, make sure they are disposed in the appropriate containers without any risk of spillage.

At the most basic level, your waste storage and disposal practices should be in compliance with the standards set by the United States Environmental Protection Agency.

3. Warehouse receiving process inspection

Your warehouse receiving process also requires regular inspections to prevent or reduce inventory shrinkage. Part of a warehouse receiving inspection includes training staff on throughly checking important details of every delivery:

  • Quantity delivered and ensuring it matches what is listed on the purchasing order
  • Integrity of seals
  • Product codes/SKUs

Stock counting and inspection can be time-consuming. To avoid hours at the loading dock, some warehouse staff count boxes or pallets, rather than individual items, or choose to perform periodic random inspections.

Technology can also help improve this process while saving time. For example, an inventory scanner system quickly checks what is being delivered matches what was ordered, ensures that the items are stored in the right location, and updates inventory levels in real time.

4. Loading bay inspection

In addition to warehouse receiving, you will also need to inspect the loading bay.

The loading bay is one of the most dangerous areas of a warehouse since trucks are constantly coming in and out of it. In fact, 25% of all reported warehouse injuries occur on loading docks.

Ensure your loading bay is free from clutter or objects that would block line of sight for drivers.

Here is what OSHA suggests should be inspected:

  • Driving forklifts slowly on docks and dock plates
  • Securing dock plates and making sure the plate can support the load
  • Keeping clear of dock edges and never back up forklifts to the dock’s edge
  • Providing visual warnings near dock edges
  • Making sure that dock ladders and stairs meet OSHA specifications

5. FDA-regulated product inspection

Warehouse inspections are particularly important for retailers that sell perishable products or products that can cause safety concerns if not regulated properly (e.g., anything that is consumed or applied to the skin). 

The FDA inspects and enforces regulations on these items, including that the warehouses they’re stored in meet FDA regulations.

Here are some examples of product types regulated by the FDA:

To be considered an “FDA-certified” warehouse, you must register your facilities with the FDA and pass your inspections to be approved. To learn more about the specifics, check out the FDA Registration and Listing page for more information.

6. Inventory inspections

With inventory inspections, also known as inventory audits, inventory losses can sometimes occur in the warehouse – whether it’s due to internal theft, record inconsistencies and disorganization, poor warehouse design, or even vendor fraud.

Quarterly inventory audits and inspections can help you detect inventory shrinkage and identify ways to prevent it.

To help with this process, make sure you have your inventory system in place for accurate inventory counts. With proper inventory tracking, you’ll be able to track discrepancies and investigate where the issues are coming from.

Note: Partnering with a 3PL, rather than managing a warehouse yourself can help make the inventory tracking process easier. For instance, ShipBob’s fulfillment software includes real-time inventory management monitoring, so you can track inventory performance over time and ensure every item is accounted for.

“We utilize ShipBob’s Inventory API, which allows us to programmatically retrieve real-time data on how many units of each product are currently stored at ShipBob’s warehouses. We currently use this API to generate custom reports to tie this inventory data into our accounting platforms.”

Waveform Lighting Team

7. Workplace environment inspection

Are your employees exposed to unsafe or uncomfortable working conditions?

In high-volume warehouses, it may not be possible to eliminate things like noise and vibrations. However, there are things you can do to avoid injury and create a more a comfortable workplace.

For instance, investing in good lighting can make a huge difference. Employees can easily get injured working in dimly lit areas due to lack of visibility.

Other environmental factors that can cause hazard include loud noise levels or extreme room temperatures. If that’s the case, you can offer employees OSHA-approved, noise-cancelling headphones and/or enforce a dress code that keeps your employees safe in very high or low temperatures.

You can also disallow personal headphones, speakers, and other devices that can prevent employees from hearing important information and sounds that affect safety.

The physical structure of your warehouse also requires regular inspections, preferably annually. Always check the condition of windows, floors, ceilings, and doors.

5 things to consider when conducting a warehouse inspection

Warehouse inspections can be highly stressful as they require a lot of time and attention to detail. Fortunately, there are ways you can prepare for warehouse inspections to make them less daunting. Review the following information before you conduct a major warehouse inspection. 

1. Use a warehouse safety checklist

Since there is so much to inspect in a warehouse, an up-to-date checklist is a must.

As part of your staff training, create a warehouse safety list with everything that needs to be checked to ensure safety. Having a warehouse safety checklist will help you make sure that you’re conducting your inspection thoroughly and that you don’t miss any vital tasks. 

Additionally, it might be helpful to categorize the different areas that require a safety check. For example, you could categorize it by:

  • Overall cleanliness of the space
  • Equipment safety
  • Inventory storage safety, including the movement of heavy items
  • Loading dock safety
  • Electrical safety
  • Emergency safety

2. Check storage procedures

It’s always important to check that your warehouse is following the proper storage protocols for different types of inventory. This includes storing flammable, combustible, and hazardous materials in the right environment to minimize danger.

Whether chemical or biological, be sure that any hazardous material is being stored correctly for the safety of your staff. 

An improperly labeled hazardous item can lead to accidents and injuries. As a warehouse operator and/or business owner, it is your responsibility to know what your products are made of to ensure they are stored properly. 

When it comes to storing heavier items on shelves, be sure to store long, tall, or top-heavy inventory on their side or secure them to prevent potential tip over.

3. Evaluate the warehouse environment

Assess the current warehouse environment and take note of the current state of the facility. Here are some questions to consider to ensure a healthy warehouse environment: 

  • Are there any damages or signs of deterioration that might pose a safety hazard and need immediate repair?
  • Does your safety equipment need maintenance or repair?
  • Is there any malfunctioning equipment that could threaten the safety of your employees?

The physical structure of your warehouse also requires regular inspections, at least annually. Check the condition of windows, floors, ceilings, and doors that are frequently used. This will allow you to make timely repairs and minimize safety hazards that could put your workers and your inventory at risk.

4. Check in with your warehouse staff

Some hazards may not be prominently visible unless you work on the floor every day. Get feedback from your staff about their current working conditions and any possible health and safety threats.

The employees involved in day-to-day operations of the warehouse can give you insights on how to create a better and safer work environment. Use this as an opportunity to speak with them, learn what can be improved, understand which policies aren’t being followed, and gather any other useful information about the warehouse.

Lastly, don’t forget to check in with them about psychological hazards that could affect their mental well-being (e.g., working long hours, not enough breaks, etc.). 

5. Review your inventory management system

Use your warehouse inspection to assess your inventory management process, so you can find ways to improve it. Proper warehouse inventory management gives your staff the time and mental bandwidth to focus on more strategic tasks, such as logistics expansion and growth.

During this inspection, look for opportunities to optimize your warehouse layout, inventory tracking and recording systems, warehouse picking and packing procedures, and shipping workflow.

One of the best ways to improve is by implementing inventory management software and connecting it with a warehouse management system (WMS), which helps to automate processes throughout the warehouse and provide accurate data and information on inventory and warehouse performance.

How ShipBob runs warehouse inspections

The arduous and time-consuming process of warehouse inspections can discourage business owners from wanting to expand their business.  

Fortunately, partnering with a premium 3PL like ShipBob can take warehousing, retail fulfillment, and shipping off your hands.

With ShipBob, you can expand your business, store inventory in multiple distribution centers, and track logistics operations all from one dashboard. It’s that easy!

Here’s how ShipBob manages warehouse inspections, ensuring that your backend operations are running smoothly for fast and efficient fulfillment. 

FDA-certified warehouses

Outsourcing to a 3PL that holds a Certificate of FDA Registration can resolve a lot of headaches related FDA regulations related to warehousing.

ShipBob is FDA-registered and complies with all warehouse inspections. All of ShipBob’s fulfillment centers are FDA-certified warehouses. This allows us to safely store non-perishable food and beverages, vitamins and supplements, and other types of specialized items for fulfillment.

“ShipBob provides the storage conditions we need to ensure our highest-quality food products are stored and delivered to our customers in a safe and effective manner.”

Pablo Gabatto, Business Operations Manager at Ample Foods

Additionally, ShipBob offers lot tracking and management to better track expiration dates in the event of a recall. This process also allows merchants to separate items based on their lot numbers.

When you send us a lot item, we will not store it with other non-lot items, or other lots of the same SKU. Our software’s logic is designed to always ship items from the lot with the nearest expiration date.

Top-notch safety systems

It’s also challenging to ensure that your warehouses are equipped with all the necessary safety systems that will keep your workers and your inventory protected.

ShipBob employs state-of-the-art security, keeping your inventory safe . Our fulfillment centers have 24/7 security and are designed to store products safely.

ShipBob’s warehouses have fire alarms, sprinkler systems, and fire extinguishers that are inspected annually to keep your inventory safe, and you can track how much inventory you have on hand across distribution centers from the ShipBob dashboard.

Thorough return inspections

ShipBob inspects all returns as they are sent back to our warehouse. This allows us to restock only those items that are fit to resell and dispose of any damaged or expired items (according to your preferences).

That way, you can maintain quality control and minimize the risk of delivering goods that are unfit for your customers.

“About a year and a half after building out our business, we figured it was time to optimize some of our processes, including returns. The ability to work with one of the co-founders of ShipBob to launch a new, custom returns process was awesome.

Returns were taking a lot of time and resources to process on our end, but ShipBob was super helpful and critical in creating a solution for us.”

Nikolai Paloni, Co-Founder of Ombraz Sunglasses

On-request item inspection

By request, we can perform an inspection of an item in our warehouse(s). If there are repeated problems with a particular SKU or if you want to ensure better quality control, we can help you with a physical inspection of individual items.

Warehousing inspections ensure that all the inventory you stock is managed correctly and ready to get picked and packed at any given moment. 

One $20-million brand moved from managing their own warehouse to maintaining (and repurposing) their staff by outsourcing B2C fulfillment to ShipBob. With ShipBob’s warehousing services, you can worry less about logistics operations and focus more time on maintaining customer satisfaction.

“Because ShipBob has a lot of people to handle our orders and additional warehouses we can expand into, we can scale up with ease as we continue to grow quickly. If we ran our own ecommerce warehouse, it would be much harder to hire people and we’d inevitably outgrow the space.”

Oded Harth, CEO & Co-Founder of MDacne

To learn more about ShipBob’s fulfillment capabilities, click the button below for custom pricing and more information. 

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Warehouse inspections FAQs

Here are the top questions business owners have about warehouse inspections. 

How often should you conduct a warehouse inspection?

The frequency of warehouse inspection depends on the type of inspection you’re conducting. Ensuring cleanliness and the overall safety of your warehouse should be followed and enforced daily. But for a full warehouse inspection, they can be done as frequently as monthly or quarterly depending on the size of the warehouse and the resources you have available. 

What are the red flags for a warehouse inspection?

Signs of deterioration, inefficient processes, safety hazards, physical hazards, chemical hazards, and health-related hazards are some red flags you may find in a warehouse inspection. Be sure to check with OSHA standards and make any improvements necessary to avoid injuries, fines, or lawsuits. 

How do warehouse inspections streamline your supply chain?

Warehouse inspections ensure that your operations are up to code and running smoothly. They also help to detect any safety risks and inefficient processes that could potentially set back your supply chain, such as a warehouse closure or slow or inaccurate fulfillment.