Easy Ways to Reduce Product Damage in Warehouse
Businesses have to take into account many factors that govern profit and loss. One common concern that many leaders face is that of product damage. Stock, once damaged, is just as good as lost items. In fact, it can get worse in most cases. Even if your warehouse faces a 1% loss due to damage, the numbers do not take too long to add up round the year. The larger the company, the greater its losses for the same percent value.
On top of that, the cost of replacing damaged goods is much higher than the original cost. The company does not just lose the money it had put in, but it has to also spend more to handle that loss. Besides the obvious pitfalls, product damage in a warehouse is a key signifier of worker safety. High amounts of damage can indicate a bigger problem of poor safety measures and calls for instant action.
To tackle the issue, you must seek to refine functions in the facility for a safer space, better brand image, and a smooth workflow. More often than not, product damage is a result of:
1. Using the wrong tools for the amount of load or type of stock.
2. Improper method of packing, securing, or loading goods.
3. Poor management, visibility, and flow of goods.
USING THE RIGHT EQUIPMENT
From pallets to machines, we see a variety of products that serve the same purpose. This variety exists for a reason that benefits all. The many types of a single tool cater to similar but varied needs. Each pallet or container can only take so much – a default range of size. Cross that range, and both, the pallet and the stock is bound to face damage.
It is important to know the use and the limit of each tool that you use. All workers must be aware of the right machine or pallet to use at a given moment. Below is the list of equipment that asks for caution to help choose the right one for your needs.
1. Pallets: A pallet must always be durable enough for what it carries. Each pallet in use must suit the size and attributes of its loads. If not, the load can collapse which will not only damage goods but can also cause severe injury.
Other than the size, you also need to ensure if a pallet is weak or broken at only point. Faulty pallets need stay aside for repair before putting them to use. A pallet should not have any stress fractures, loose boards, or exposed nails. In some cases, pallets can also contaminate goods if not checked for the same.
The standard weight and size ranges for pallets are:
&bull 3700 lbs = 42 X 42 or 48 X 48
&bull 4600 lbs = 48 X 40
&bull 4700 lbs = 36 X 36
2.Containers: A container’s main task is to protect packaged goods. Like pallets, containers must also be durable enough to hold the size and weight of the load that is put into them.
Containers also need to provide enough space for perimeter packing. It plays a key role in protecting goods during any mode of transit. Without any support, items are bound to move and crash into each other, thereby resulting in damage.
Containers come in a lot of variety. Some of the most useful ones are:
1. Dry Containers, that are weather-proof and can load most normal cargo in bulk.
2. Flat Racks, with collapsible sides that fold to make a flat rack.
3. Open Top, which is best for storing heavy cargo through the top.
4. ISO Reefer, for goods that need optimal temperature for storage.
3. Machinery: Most damage comes to goods when in transit, even when it moves within the premise. Using the right machine to handle stock when you move or place it is an integral step to avoid damage.
Broadly-speaking, there are two main types of vehicles used to move pallets –
- Pallet Trucks, that are known to place loads squarely onto pallet racking units. These do not pose a threat to goods and can fulfil the task without pallets falling or crashing into each other. They are a great tool to lift and transport pallets with ease.
- Pallet Stackers, that are a widely popular and durable lifting machine. They are small in size and best for use in tight or narrow spaces.
These machines can be fully automatic, semi-automatic or manual. Either way, trained and skilled operators are a must to ensure safety of goods and people.
4. Racks: Racking, also known as shelving, is a crucial process of warehousing. Like other units, racking supplies must also fit right with the load’s weight and size. Low strength or a failure in the system can prompt a domino fall. The damage from such an impact is huge but the injuries are lethal.
Racks come in many sizes and designs with a wide range of capacities to handle load. Some great pallet racking systems are:
- Selective Systems: These offer high volume storage at low costs.
- Drive-in Systems: They are a high-density system for similar products. Drive-In Systems are not a good option for fragile or varied items.
- Push Back Systems: They offer flexible options and custom designs. These are low risk racks as forklifts cannot enter the form.
- Pallet Flow Systems: These work best for a large number of pallets. They offer automatic rotation and form one product lanes to assort items.
METHODS TO MINIMISE DAMAGE
Other than using the right tools at the right place and time, there are many simple changes you can make to better your process. An orderly and well-managed process build a safe work area with least damage. Some practices that you can adopt to cut down the damage in your warehouse, whether large or small, are given below.
1. Apply Weather Proofing
Most stock in storage needs you to properly insulate the facility and maintain an optimal zone. To do so, you need to protect your warehouse from the many elements of nature outside. Peak hot or cold seasons or locations with extreme climate can pose of a threat to the well-being of your products. It can rot wooden pallets while humidity can ruin cardboard. Whatever you store, your facility needs to be safe from the weather changes.
It takes a lot of energy and money to maintain this perfect atmosphere to store a mass amount of goods. HVAC systems need to constantly run to achieve the desired state. A better one-time outlay is to insulate the exterior. Using weather-proof paints both inside and outside can help avoid moisture to retain.
2. Keep Broader Aisles
Pallet trucks, stackers, or others need space to function. Tight spaces can result in clashes and make it dreadful to operate in that space. High contact while working in a warehouse is always a recipe for disaster.
To cut down contact, broaden your aisles and keep more room for staff and machines to move. It provides plenty of space to pick and store and is the most helpful during in-demand seasons.
To make the space more secure, you can also use aisle markings and floor safety tape to mark the path and use it as a guide.
3. Use Signage
The three segments (packing, storage, and loading) have a flow of traffic from one to another round the clock. The lack of an orderly system or flow can lead to chaos and havoc. Such chaos is an apparent cause of accidents and other problems.
To avoid such frenzy among staff, each area needs to have clear and readable signs. Signs help direct the mobile operators and machines on the go. Another nifty use of signs to prevent damage is to post max weight capacity of storage units on each one of them. It ensures that workers do not over-stack pallets when they are not aware of its capacity.
Signage plays a key role in the health of your workers too. Signs can prompt workers of many hazards around the space like low ceilings or loose wires.
4. Train Workers
Most damage comes from workers who do not know how to perform a task or operate a device in the right manner. Machines will only get more complex with time. One cannot assume that every person is aware of their functions or the risks they pose. Neither will everyone be open or feel free to ask for guidance or help.
Thus, a simple way to avoid such danger is to train workers and inform them on the details of their respective departments. Training your staff with their tasks and tools time and again can stop them from taking ignorant steps that cause harm. Regular meetings and sessions are a great way to ensure the staff is on track and clued up on the topic.
Your staff needs to be aware of the company’s safety policies and procedures, or the criteria to meet at all times. This can be another major part of your meetings or sessions as you train your employees. It is important that these details are always in access for anyone who needs to refer to them. Handouts will work just fine – you can either hand printouts to every worker or place them around the facility where they can easily see it. It is a must to train your workers if you seek to tackle hazards and there is no way around it.
5. Light Up the Facility
All of us are aware of how hard it can to be to move around or work in darkness. It can become even more problematic when there is not enough space, such as narrow aisles or corners. Scanty lighting can cause a great number of accidents, damages and put staff at risk.
As a result, you must make sure that every nook and corner is well-lit during work hours. Do not just focus on main areas and try to check on bulbs and lighting every once in a while. More so, motion sensors can light up an area when they sense any activity. They will help you save energy and cost without having to cut down on the number of lights and keep all areas well lit.
Better lighting accounts for better visibility. It will not only make it easier for your staff to work smoothly, but also allow you to keep an eye across the warehouse.
6. Load Pallets to Form a Stable Structure
One more major cause of product damage and injuries is having a stack of load topple down. Stacked goods often give way as a result of an unstable structure.
To build a stable form, load the pallet with the heaviest goods at the bottom. As you move up, keep going lighter. Have the lightest item on top. You also need to make sure that the items slowly taper inward as they move to the top. Leaving items hanging over the edge is never a good option for obvious reasons.
As discussed before, keeping the weight in mind on a pallet is just as essential. You should never try to fit in more than what it can take, or else the pallet is bound to snap and break down.
7. Secure Pallets Properly
Besides using wraps, there are specific methods to secure pallets properly. You can cut down on most of the damage that comes in transit simply by using the right wrapping method.
Make sure that the wrap is strong enough to hold the items in place but not so strong that it crushes the stock. While methods can vary, there are some chief rules you must follow. The wrap needs to be firmly secured to the base before you even start to wrap. You begin to wrap the pallet from the bottom and spiral it upward. A 360-degree wrap will cover the entire stock. Most times, you will need to secure two to three rounds to get a firm grip.
The use of safety straps will keep pallets secure when in storage and avoid them from toppling down. Stretch wraps, on the other hand, will keep goods in place when transporting them from one place to another. Plastic wraps also keep moisture or bugs away from coming in contact with the actual product.
8. Protect Storage Racks
While the first step will always to be choose the right pallet or rack, you can always supplement the strength and security. Rack protectors will do just that. They make for durable and safe racks that help pallets stay in place. It may call you to invest some extra money to replace or get new ones, but they can greatly help the business in the long run.
Some other smart racking solutions include:
- Step Beams
- Support Bars
- Wire Decking
- Aisle Shields
A light crash with a forklift or any other heavy machine is enough to bring entire systems down. Protectors give racks stability. They ensure that the system stays in place despite such minor crashes.
Even if a rack is stable, there is always the added danger of single items or cartons falling off. The use of safety nets or mesh safety screens can help prevent these falls. If a product falls from the top, the mesh will catch it and cut back on damage or injury to any nearby staff.
9. Conduct Frequent Inspections
Little steps and changes matter in every process. Products and processes do not remain the same as time passes. Needs change, machines and tools wear and tear, and strategies fail. And there is only one way to handle this – checking up on all of these again and again.
Like training must be done often to keep it fresh, so must inspections. Inspect if your workers make use of their training. If not, you need revamp your methods. Inspect if all protocols are being followed regularly to keep safety in place. Keep doing so to never let your staff take these norms lightly.
Inspections also extend to actual physical equipment. Machines, lights, pallets, or racks – is it time to repair or throw any tool? Using damaged gear can harm your stock and your staff.
It can be a tedious task to check on every little thing, but it is worth the time and effort. To take the burden off, the entire team can inspect and inform. You can allow workers to drop off complaints or ask them for any issues during meetings. It will save your time and help you note any issues with tools or methods that call for your attention.
10. Keep it Clean
Lastly, one of the most fundamental ways to avoid damage, is to keep a clean facility. Clutter can make it easy to trip, fall or crash into things. It can be even more troublesome for forklift operators as tiny items can miss the eye, causing bumps and impact on goods.
Nails, boxes, tape, wraps, or wood chips can be easily left around at random places. While it may not seem like a big deal, minor things can cause major accidents and pose a serious threat. You need to allot a fixed spot to store empty boxes and bins to store items or throw them away to keep the warehouse safe.
It is also vital to make workers aware and remind them to make use of these allotted spaces. Let them know of the hazards of debris and ask them to clean up after themselves. It is important for you as a leader to keep each member accountable for their actions. Or else, they might take your words lightly and pose a threat to goods, their own well-being, and that of others.
Behind all threat to goods, there is a common instance – touch. To handle or touch any product, particularly by a human, brings with a risk of damage. A person can be distracted and drop an item. One could pack it the wrong way or forget a minor but vital step. Errors can go unnoticed when you inspect them. Signs could be missed out or goods could be misplaced. The possibilities are endless.
The very element of being a human incites an error. We cannot go on with work without rest, and our cognitive faculties decline with time. While there is no way yet to obtain superhuman capacity, we have our own inventions to aid us.
The most important step to reduce damage is to reduce the amount of times a human interacts with stock. The advent of intelligent machines, from drones to smart software, all play a crucial role in efficiency. It may be much more difficult for us to trust machines, especially when we are only starting out. A machine is not perfect, but neither is a human. But their pair is much closer to perfection.
Reducing manual areas of labour and having staff assist smart machinery for different purposes can significantly cut down any risks of damage and increase overall efficiency of a warehouse.
Invest in and introduce latest technology. Using software to track and automate the counting of stock is also just as vital. Machines that pack or wrap or guide us, all of them aid in our workings. While it may seem impossible to achieve a zero percent damage rate, better practices and moving forward with modern tools can help you get incredibly close to that number.
Moreover, having proper systems to streamline dock appointments scheduling using Dock Scheduling Software can reduce the cognitive burden on your warehouse and central teams. This lets them focus on safety standards with a clearer mind.
Remember, numbers add up quickly in absolute terms when we think in rates, and so do profits and losses. They drop quickly, but with the right steps, they rise just as fast.