Warehouse Maintenance Guide
Much like how a clean kitchen is easier to cook in, a well-maintained warehouse is an efficient warehouse. When your warehouse space is clean and free of clutter and safety risks, processes run smoothly with minimal disruptions. As a result, you promote operational efficiency and boost your bottom line.
In this guide, we take a closer look into warehouse maintenance and why it’s important for ecommerce businesses. We’ll also give you best practices and a checklist of maintenance procedures to help you maintain your warehouse over time.
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What is warehouse maintenance?
Warehouse maintenance is the process of keeping a warehousing facility in optimal functioning condition. It involves performing necessary repairs, keeping machinery and equipment running, and conducting regular inspections, audits, and cleanups to minimize clutter and safety hazards among a few.
The goal of warehouse maintenance is to ensure that a warehouse is functioning optimally so that day-to-day warehousing processes can be carried out efficiently with minimal disruptions.
The types of warehouse maintenance
Businesses typically perform a few different types of warehouse maintenance.
These are the routine maintenance activities that are planned, scheduled, and performed regularly. Their purpose is to prevent unexpected breakdowns in warehouse equipment and processes so that operations can carry on smoothly.
For example, a piece of machinery may be scheduled for maintenance after 20 hours of use. Scheduled maintenance may also involve cleanup activities performed at regular intervals, such as trash removal, mopping, or wiping down equipment.
Businesses also need to regularly perform thorough warehouse inspections. This type of maintenance is crucial, as it enables you to identify any potential or emerging issues before they turn into bigger problems for your business.
Some areas of your warehouse to inspect include:
- Overall cleanliness
- Waste disposal systems
- Receiving process
- Loading dock areas
- FDA-regulated products
- Inventory management
- Warehouse safety
- Work environment
You can’t have an efficient warehouse without a team of skilled workers. Businesses should conduct training sessions to help workers understand the equipment they’re using, so that all team members can perform their tasks safely and efficiently.
Why warehouse maintenance is crucial
One of the biggest benefits of proper maintenance is that it ensures your fulfillment and logistics operations function seamlessly. When all equipment and processes are working as they should, there should be no disruptions.
This level of functionality is essential for high-growth businesses like Dossier, which scaled from 0 to 100,000 orders. By leveraging ShipBob’s outsourced fulfillment, the perfume brand was able to streamline their operations and ship out large volumes without breakdowns.
“Logistics is something you never think about until it stops working, and we’ve never come to that point with ShipBob. The services are excellent. Everything just works. We are super happy with ShipBob and very impressed by how well they’ve pumped out our large volume of orders.”Sergio Tache, CEO of Dossier
Warehouse maintenance also helps your brand keep your warehouse organized and improve inventory tracking. It’s easy for inventory to get lost, misplaced, or damaged in a warehouse that’s not properly maintained, as anti-aging supplement brand Oxford Healthspan discovered.
Because their old 3PL was relying on outdated manual processes, Oxford Healthspan experienced a lot of issues with incorrect orders and backorders. Their warehousing partner even ended up losing some of their inventory, which led Oxford Healthspan to switch to ShipBob so they could work with a more reliable partner and enjoy better inventory visibility.
“Our old 3PL was very small and wasn’t at all equipped to help us scale. Their processes were manual, not automated, which meant managing fulfillment was both more tedious and more prone to error. They didn’t have visibility across the entire fulfillment chain into orders either.
Because there was limited traceability of orders between our Shopify store and their inventory and order management software, a few customers were sent the wrong orders. They also lost some of our inventory — and that was the last straw for us.
After that, we knew we needed to find a reliable, trusted fulfillment partner that could support us as we scaled, both in size and international reach. Then, at the recommendation of one of our peers, we switched to ShipBob”Maria Osorio, Logistics and Operations Director at Oxford Healthspan
What a neglected warehouse looks like
If your warehouse is functional, it can sometimes be hard to recognize when you need to perform maintenance. Here are some signs that a brand is neglecting its warehouse maintenance, and should carve out time to address it.
Poorly organized and cluttered storage areas
In a neglected warehouse, storage areas may be poorly organized – often storage locations haven’t been checked for accuracy, and storage equipment such as bins, shelves, and pallet racks are old or outdated. As such, it may be challenging to locate and pick the right items, which significantly slows down fulfillment operations. Moreover, it increases your risk of losing and misplacing inventory.
Accumulation of dust and debris
When routine warehouse cleaning isn’t carried out as scheduled, dust and debris easily build up on the floors and workstations. This can make floors extra slippery, and workers may have a hard time moving around and completing their assigned tasks, which slows down other warehousing operations and could even cause delays or safety hazards down the line.
Broken, dim, or flickering lights aren’t uncommon in a neglected warehouse. However, if operations have to be carried out in inadequate lighting, workers’ safety is at higher risk. When workers can’t see what they’re doing, it could result in accidents and injuries.
Malfunctioning equipment and machinery
Equipment and machinery maintenance is absolutely critical to the safety of your warehouse workers. If neglected, equipment like forklifts, conveyor systems, pallet jacks, and more may be prone to malfunction or break down completely. When this happens, your warehousing operations grind to a halt because tasks can’t be performed without the appropriate equipment.
Lack of regular inspections and maintenance checks
Usually, the reason why a warehouse is neglected is because inspections and maintenance checks aren’t carried out regularly. When brands put off or never conduct these inspections, it’s easy to miss potential issues that eventually turn into much bigger problems further down the line. This can cause major disruptions to your warehousing operations, thus delaying other processes.
Faulty electrical systems or flammable materials
Electrical systems that aren’t checked or updated for long periods of time and flammable materials lying around on the warehouse floor are huge liabilities. They pose serious safety hazards, and could cause accidents and warehouse fires that would be extremely expensive to recover from.
Daily warehouse maintenance checklist and best practices
With so many moving parts in your operations, building a warehouse maintenance plan can seem overwhelming. To help you get started, here are some tips and best practices for maintaining an ecommerce warehouse.
Schedule regular inspections and preventative maintenance
Inspections and preventative maintenance should be carried out at regular intervals to catch potential issues early. Work with your warehouse managers, engineers, and technicians to create a schedule that builds in time for both individual equipment maintenance and complete warehouse checks.
When possible, schedule maintenance to take place when the warehouse is not in use (such as a weekend day or temporary break). That way, it’s much easier to conduct the necessary checks, and you don’t have to worry about disrupting regular operations.
Even if this scheduling strategy is not viable for your business, don’t forgo the inspections altogether. Remember: interrupting operations for a few hours to take care of maintenance tasks is still much better than having to shut down suddenly for emergency maintenance – or for weeks or months due to technical issues or accidents.
Choose your warehouse management system (WMS) wisely
Warehouse maintenance will always take time – but with the right WMS powering your operations, you can speed up the process significantly.
The right warehouse management system makes it easy to keep track of different warehousing operations, so you can monitor if things are running smoothly over time. Good warehouse management systems also let you automate various manual tasks, improving efficiency and reducing the chance of manual errors or accidents that maintenance may have to deal with.
Moreover, the best WMS can provide you with detailed analytics and reporting capabilities so you can see how different aspects of your warehouse are performing. This is crucial to identify areas that you might need to focus on for maintenance.
Train staff for maintenance awareness and safety protocols
Your warehouse staff has first-hand experience working with different equipment and machinery in the warehouse, so it’s critical to train them properly on the importance of maintenance and how they can contribute. This might involve holding a seminar on safety protocols, and training staff in identifying and troubleshooting potential issues so you can fix them before they escalate.
Keep the warehouse clean and organized
Regular cleaning should be a constant part of your warehouse maintenance efforts. Have protocols in place to ensure that the warehouse is clean and organized. For example, workers must be responsible for placing items in assigned racks and keeping tools in assigned locations.
Additionally, you might even have a dedicated maintenance team that’s responsible for performing basic maintenance tasks such as mopping, dusting, sweeping, disinfecting, and disposing of trash.
Review and update warehouse maintenance strategies
There’s always room for improvement, even when it comes to warehouse maintenance. Make sure to review your existing strategies regularly to look for any areas of improvement and update them as needed. For example, this may involve updating maintenance schedules to more realistically reflect your maintenance needs.
A tech-driven approach to warehouse maintenance: How ShipBob leads the way
Employing the right technology and smart warehousing automation can go a long way towards improving warehouse maintenance. In particular, a good WMS can not only boost operational efficiency and throughput, but also streamline maintenance activities.
ShipBob’s WMS, for example, helps brands organize their warehouses and store their inventory in a way that facilitates quick, safe picking. This makes it easier to clean warehouse aisles, stations, and equipment – and, for brands like Spikeball, actually improved order accuracy and efficiency.
“Prior to ShipBob, we had our most popular products at the front. Through the implementation process we learned that if you’re commonly picking certain items, they should be stored in the back so you aren’t carrying them around while you’re picking other items. Our best sellers are at the end of the pick path now, so once we’ve picked those, we’re already back at the pack statioons. We even changed the way we stowed products. For example, we would have similar items in the same area — take shirts, for instance. Because they were so close together, there was a high likelihood that we picked the wrong size or the wrong color because all of our shirts looked similar and were physically right beside each other. Once we set up ShipBob’s system, we were putting those similar items (that weren’t ordered together) in all different places in the warehouse. After that, our pick accuracy went way up. Getting out of our own way of thinking was eye-opening”Adam LaGesse, Global Warehousing Director at Spikeball
A good WMS will also provide brands with real-time, comprehensive analytics on key inventory, orders, and fulfillment metrics. Using insights from this data, you can identify supply chain areas that are underperforming, and check them for potential issues. Brands like Prymal love the visibility they receive through ShipBob’s WMS, and even leveraged it to achieve 10% cost savings in their warehouse operations.
“ShipBob’s software allows for all of us to “virtually see” our warehouse without having to physically be there. Because of that, we’ve been able to reduce our product speed-to-market, catch and remediate quality control issues, and intercept orders (as our fulfillment associates are able to physically see, touch, count, and ship items). All of that is amazing. I also love the analytics tools, and so do my accountants. I can also see how my team is doing, tracking their order metrics as they fulfill orders. While we now pay for our own rent and the salaries of our fulfillment center team, we have been able to save 10% and reinvest that into other parts of the business. It’s been game-changing”Courtney Lee, Founder of Prymal
ShipBob’s WMS is also designed to be intuitive to navigate and easy to use, so that Brands like FlutterHabit can train new team members on the system in as little as 15 minutes. Prescriptive step-by-step packing flows and built-in visuals help employees know exactly how to carry out key functions, which helps them stay safe on the warehouse floor and minimizes accidents.
“One of our favorite elements of ShipBob’s WMS is how user-friendly it is. Even though the dashboard houses a ton of complex capabilities, its usability is still spectacular. It’s so simple to use that we wrote down instructions for how to process returns on a piece of paper, taped it to a desk, and now any one of our team members can walk up and immediately log in and follow the steps. The software just takes them through it, so we can train a new fulfillment team member on the WMS in about 15 minutes.”Bethany Peterson, COO of FlutterHabit
With maintenance being a vital part of your overall warehouse management strategy, incorporating a comprehensive WMS is conducive to good warehouse maintenance. ShipBobs WMS offers brands a way to make their warehouses safer and more efficient, so you can keep operations running optimally.
If maintaining and running your own warehouse is getting to be too much for your business, ShipBob also offers outsourced fulfillment services. ShipBob will store your inventory in one of our fulfillment and distribution centers, and perform all the necessary warehousing inspections, checks, and maintenance activities – plus, when orders arrive, logistics experts will pick, pack and ship them for you.
Want to learn more about how ShipBob’s fulfillment solutions can help you master warehouse maintenance? Click the button to speak with an expert.
Warehouse maintenance FAQs
Below are answers to the top questions about warehouse maintenance.
What are the potential impacts of poor warehouse maintenance on order fulfillment processes?
Poor warehouse maintenance can result in unexpected disruptions, downtime, and delays, which means orders can’t be fulfilled on time. More importantly, poor maintenance puts workers at risk for accidents and potential injuries, which is a huge liability for businesses.
How can warehouse maintenance help in reducing overall operational costs?
Warehouse maintenance ensures that everything is in optimal running condition, which minimizes the risk of expensive disruptions. Plus, it improves the efficiency of different warehouse processes, which helps to reduce overall operational costs.
How can small businesses implement effective warehouse maintenance on a tight budget?
If your brand has a limited budget, warehouse maintenance is not the best area for cutting costs. In fact, high-quality warehouse maintenance can actually save your brand money, as it prevents costly accidents and helps maximize operational productivity and cost-efficiency.