Organizational Damnation 59: Warehouse Management

This warehouse frightens me.
Has me tied up in knots …
   Dave Matthews Band

And if your warehouse doesn’t frighten you, obviously you haven’t taken a good look at it.

The warehouse is responsible for inventory, and inventory is very costly even when it’s well managed. Some studies of inventory (carrying) costs have estimated inventory costs to be 25% of the value of the average inventory level. Having your inventory cost you up to 25% of its value is a damnation in itself! That’s why many organizations have been migrating to JiT (Just in Time) inventory strategies. But this brings its own problems — and is another source of warehouse damnation (but we’ll get to that).

If an organization aggressively pursues a JiT inventory strategy, even a slight delay can result in a stockout which can result in production line downtime if the product was needed internally or a loss of sales if the product was for sale and needed on the shelf.

Now, besides costing a small fortune, why is the warehouse a damnation?

They control product availability.

If they take their time unloading product, temporarily misplace product, damage product, miscount product, or store it in the least efficient location, the product won’t be available when you need it.

They are the final product quality check.

If they don’t carefully check deliveries for apparent damage, don’t return defective units (and accidentally restock them), and don’t perform any quality checks they are supposed to perform on delivery, defective (or tainted) product can get in the system, get shipped to customers, and give you a black eye.

They control product delivery.

If they take their time loading product, or get behind in orders, customers won’t get their product on time and you will be blamed even if the order arrived on time.

They have a huge impact on inventory cost.

You can move to JiT and optimize inventory levels, but inventory cost is the overhead costs and the depreciation costs, and the overhead costs are the space utilized, the manpower employed, and the operational overhead. If poor planning requires 50% more manpower, on average, than is needed, that bumps up cost. If poor organization means each product retrieval or shipment takes 50% longer than it should (because the warehouse is not lean), that bumps up cost. If poor operational policies or systems means that it is heated 24 hours a day, even though only staffed 10 hours, that bumps up cost. Warehouse controls all of this, not Procurement.

Even a warehouse staff with the best of intentions can cause Procurement the worst of nightmares. It’s yet another organizational damnation that you need to deal with on a daily basis.