I’ve said it before in a previous blog, and I’ll say it again folks, the receiving dock is the gateway to your warehouse. So isn’t that where quality should begin as well? Goods damaged in the warehouse can cost you about $25,000 a year or more for a medium sized operation, and according to Food Market Institute the grocery industry sustains nearly $20 billion annually in damaged merchandise. You can begin plugging this leaking of cash at the point of receiving and begin quality control at the dock.
Establish a receiving inspection program. Put your program’s procedures in writing, create an easy to use checklist for the receivers to record each delivery and then train and train a little more. Begin by inspecting the loads being delivered while they’re still on the trailer. What is the condition of the loads? Has the LTL stacked a pallet of bowling balls on top of your order of juice boxes? Have the loads shifted and tilted or fallen over in transit? They say a picture is worth a thousand words so in either case take pictures of the loads while they’re still on the trailer. it’s really a great tool to use to share with the vendor about the job their carrier is doing for them or that dispatcher who doubts they’d send a load like that to you. If it’s a refrigerated delivery you should also record the trailer temperature by using a infrared temperature gun to ensure food safety. The information on each delivery can then be filed for future reference and also serve as a report card on carriers used.
Next after unloading look over the pallet and make sure there are no holes, tears, crushed or wet cases. I’ve always trained my staff to look at the boxes as if they were the consumer. Would you buy that box in it’s present condition? They were also trained to remove the damaged cases and depending on the situation, dictated to them what should happen next. If the product arrived via LTL the damaged cases were refused and the BOL was properly marked to indicate the number of cartons accepted and why the others were refused. In those cases involving over the road carriers or long hauls that were not returning to a terminal we still indicated the number of damaged cases, but we put the damages on a separate pallet, and labeled it with pertinent information, (PO#, vendor, item #, quantity and reason), recorded the location it was to be stored and then referred it to the buyer. Then to keep them honest I’d send weekly email reminders for disposition and also copied the company bean counter who made sure they’d follow through and recoup our money.
Putting away goods is another area that can create damages. If you can avoid having to re-palletize your loads it can save you time and money by not having to use the labor and less opportunity for damaging goods. Try working with your vendors and purchasing department to see if this can accomplished. If you have to rework pallets make sure the cases sit on the pallet correctly and don’t hang over the edge and then follow the recommended stacking heights by the vendor. Also cross docking if possible is another way to reduce damages by avoiding handling several times in movement from the receiving dock to a storage location, then as a replenishment to a picking location and then being picked. Very important especially with perishable goods is to follow FIFO to keep boxes pristine and free of collected dust. Forklift drivers, as part of their safety training need to be reminded to be careful when moving loads. When in a rush or not paying attention those forks will puncture any cardboard box and it’s contents in a second.
Other tips for training on quality in the warehouse is remind staff don’t use boxes as a stepping stool or ladder to reach something above it. Chances are that big footprint on top of the crushed box will make a customer either refuse or further inspect the contents of that box. When slotting product for picking put the heavy boxes on the lowest levels and small light boxes above or in a flow rack. Also make sure the picking location has the correct space to handle a full pallet to avoid crushing boxes on replenishment. See if you can get boxes from vendors so you can repack if necessary. There is also the ugly issue of pilfering by employees especially in food warehouses. To me this is an indication that the supervisor is not walking the warehouse on a regular basis and the staff knows it and takes advantage. This pilfering has to be stopped immediately as it will cost you more than damages of product, since you’ll usually find that the OT is high in these situations which is another indicator they are not being managed properly. Remove the opened cases from the warehouse when found, and remember to adjust from inventory and hopefully can sell at reduced cost to customers.
Also make sure you have open communication with Customer service and Sales as this is a great way to receive feedback on how well your warehouse is functioning, not only on the condition of product delivered but picking orders correctly and completely.
Remember, warehouse damages can quickly add up for any operation but can be an easy fix making you look good as well as the presentation of the warehouse, which says volumes on how you operate it.