These are turbulent times, with businesses facing tremendous financial, geopolitical, labor, and logistics pressures. The pandemic brought changes in consumer demand, eCommerce, and retail, putting pressure on warehousing and supply chain logistics. Warehouses and distribution centers need to evolve their operations, automation, and software that backs them.
Warehouse Equipment and Maintenance
A warehouse's assets are its machines and equipment. Adequate upkeep and regular checks ensure that the equipment is in good working condition, minimize downtime, and extend the equipment's life.
Some critical aspects of warehouse maintenance are:
Scheduled maintenance: Keeps the forklifts, conveyor belts, transport equipment, and such in good working condition. Checks identify any potential issues and complete preventative maintenance.
Stock management: Having enough replacement parts in stock prevents any stoppage and upsets in operations.
Equipment upgrade: Keeping an eye on trends and encouraging in-house innovations can make a massive difference in warehouse operations.
It would help if you combined workers and machines to perform optimally. Earlier, all equipment was manually operated, and any anomalies were immediately noticeable, but with more automation technology emerging, you need maintenance systems suited for the new environment.
Several reasons make maintenance necessary:
Equipment reliability: Regular maintenance ascertains that equipment and machinery are functioning correctly, reducing the likelihood of unexpected breakdowns and downtime.
Cost savings: Proper maintenance can extend the equipment's lifespan, reducing the need for costly replacements and lowering overall maintenance costs in the long run.
Safety: Regular maintenance identifies and rectifies any potential safety hazards — reducing the risk of accidents and injuries in the workplace.
Compliance: Maintenance ensures that equipment and operations comply with relevant regulations and standards, avoiding potential fines and legal liabilities.
Productivity: Efficient and reliable equipment is essential for maintaining high productivity levels in the warehouse, and proper maintenance is critical to this efficiency.
Risks of Bad Warehouse Maintenance
Considering the warehouses' layout and regular cleaning and maintenance is essential. There are several risks associated with poor warehouse maintenance, some of which include the following:
Poor maintenance can result in hazardous conditions such as slippery floors, damaged equipment, and electrical hazards.
Loss of inventory
Stored products and stock can get damaged, leading to potential losses and decreased profitability.
When equipment and infrastructure are not appropriately maintained, it can lead to operational inefficiencies and decreased productivity. For example, forklifts are a significant hazard in a warehouse. Statistics suggest that 90% of forklifts are involved in an accident at least once, and 80% involve pedestrians.
Many industries have specific regulations and standards for warehouse maintenance, and failure to comply with these regulations can result in legal penalties and fines. The OSHA imposes fines for accidents due to poor maintenance, depending on the nature of the accident. The penalties can cost $12,600 or even run up to a prohibitive $126,000.
Poor warehouse maintenance can negatively impact a company's reputation, leading to sales decline and decreased customer confidence.
In the long term, neglecting warehouse maintenance can lead to higher costs in repairs, replacements, and increased insurance premiums. According to the National Safety Council, a worker's injury costs $38,000 on average in medical bills. The costs go up to $150,000 if we include indirect costs, which cover equipment and vehicle damage and productivity loss.
All warehouse assets should be maintained at optimal efficiency to prevent injuries and ensure that the equipment operates at its best. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported 21 fatal workplace injuries in warehouses across the U.S. in 2020.
How to Improve Warehouse Efficiency
Warehouses are adapting to the changing needs. As technology advances, warehouses will become increasingly automated — making maintenance even more critical for ensuring efficient and reliable operations.
Adaptation of sensor technologies (12.9%) and eCommerce training for retail employees (11.3%) are essential criteria for logistics companies.
Here are some ways to improve warehouse maintenance efficiency:
Regular preventative maintenance identifies potential issues before they become more prominent, reducing downtime and maximizing equipment reliability.
Proper maintenance upkeep and training can help identify and mitigate potential hazards. It ensures the equipment runs smoothly, saves costs, and increases employee engagement.
Asset management software
Asset management software allows organizations to track the condition of their assets in real-time with real-time data and insights. It automates inventory management and maintenance schedules. Also, it often integrates with other enterprise systems, improving collaboration and communication between different departments and stakeholders.
Regularly reviewing and improving maintenance processes can help recognize areas for improvement and maximize efficiency over time. This is where experienced supervisors, technicians, and experts can come together to train and build a culture of safety.
Partnering with a maintenance provider
A third-party maintenance partner reduces the burden and provides expert services in specialized equipment. It offers on-demand emergency services, which benefits some small and medium businesses with limited resources.
Continuously reviewing and improving processes
Implementing an asset management system can help keep track of equipment, schedules, warranties, logs, manuals recommendations, equipment manuals, and maintenance history — making maintenance planning more efficient.
Warehouse design should include safety features — such as fire suppression systems, proper lighting, clearly marked aisles and walkways, and proper storage and stacking — to help prevent accidents.
According to Deskera, among warehouse managers, the most frequently used KPIs for supply chain monitoring is daily performance (40%), cost reduction (35%), production service rate (29%), inventory turn (28%), and production time (27%).
The emerging reliance on online buying and eCommerce has thrown up its unique challenges. Here, speed and stock management are of utmost importance. Fierce competition means customers are impatient with delays and have no compunction in canceling or returning orders, doubling the logistics burden.
Online businesses rely on efficient warehousing in a competitive environment. Inventory management, storage capacity, and efficient transportation are vital ingredients in ecommerce warehousing. According to a Mckinsey report, over 60% of retailers faced the need to adapt their supply chain for eCommerce.
Maintenance will continue to be a crucial aspect of warehouse operations. According to Peerless research, the average capital expenditure for 2023 was pegged at $1.17 million, down from an average of $1.64 million last year. Nearly one in four respondents (a combined 23%) were planning to spend $500,000 on equipment and technology.
Proper maintenance also extends the equipment's lifespan, reducing the need for replacements and cutting overall costs in the long run. Additionally, as technology advances, warehouses will likely become increasingly automated — making maintenance even more critical for ensuring efficient and reliable operations.
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