Warehouse and logistics are two integral parts of a supply chain network. For the latter to function, both of the former must be understood in their integrity and organized so as to work in tandem with one another. When properly managed, a warehouse can be the physical backbone of a company, while logistics can ensure the smooth flow of products or information from manufacturer to consumer.
In addition, a warehouse manager must also be accustomed with the concept of warehouse logistics, which is essentially the discipline of logistics as applied to the inner workings of a storage building. A customized warehouse management system, which we will discuss later in this article, can help employees maintain suitable warehouse logistics.
What Is a Warehouse?
A warehouse is a vast indoor or outdoor space that can be used for the storage of massive quantities of goods. Viewed from the point of view of the supply chain network, the warehouse is where products are temporarily kept on their transit from the manufacturer to the retailer or, in some cases, to the consumer.
The main functions of a warehouse include:
- Unloading pallets and ensuring their safe transportation from the receiving area to storage.
- Receiving goods and tracking information about their point of origin, as well as transit.
- Finding an appropriate storage space for inventory.
- Maintaining products in a good condition, either by sheltering them from the elements or by means of special environmental controls.
- Effectively order-picking, especially in the case of warehouses that operate in e-commerce.
- Handling any returns from retailers or customers.
- Loading and shipping goods.
- Keeping records of all transferred items and inside warehouse operations.
A warehouse is, in other words, a central hub for receiving, depositing, and distributing goods. As such, it is an essential part of the supply chain, while its optimization can have immediate positive effects on an entire business.
What Is Logistics?
As a broader management branch of supply chain management, logistics includes warehousing and warehouse operations. In the simplest terms, it refers to the flow of items and information from the manufacturer to the consumer, together with all the necessary steps to ensure this flow. The latter might include:
- The transportation of goods.
- The safe storage of goods (or warehousing).
- Trade facilities, and more.
To ensure the optimal functioning of a company, logistics and warehouse management must be synchronized properly. The aim is to eliminate most (if not all) possible idiosyncrasies in quotidian activities, thereby improving the efficiency of the entire supply chain.
For example, one way to ensure synchronization between logistics and warehouse management is to schedule transportation windows (especially pick-up and delivery times) in accordance to warehouse staffing restrictions. When this is done successfully, it guarantees that the optimal number of workers and equipment can be used at the time when deliveries and pick-ups are made. This, in turn, reduces waste and employee idle time, which improves the efficiency with which products move from manufacturer to consumer.
What about Warehouse Logistics?
As a branch of warehouse management, warehouse logistics is the detailed planning, organization, and implementation of interior operations designed to ensure the flow of both information and physical items within the storage building. Different aspects of warehouse logistics range from receiving and shipping goods to inventory data, human resources, security, risk management, and others.
Warehouse logistics is a complex beast that managers are required to tackle. Consider, for example, that at any given time, a warehouse manager must ensure that any employee can identify the exact location (aisle, rack, bay, pallet) of a specific item in a vast storage space that includes thousands of different SKUs (or stock keeping units). Most often, this is done with the help of specialized software that goes under the name of “warehouse management system.”
When customized for the operations of a specific storage space, a warehouse management system can:Provide an accurate count of all types of inventory, together with exact locations for all items. Prevent returns by helping employees send the right items and the right time. Order inventory based on information about low stock for specific products. Reduce labor costs and maximize storage space utilization by improving the efficiency of various warehouse-specific routines.
To put everything into perspective, warehouse logistics can be considered a branch of warehouse management, which, in turn, is an integral part of logistics. All three serve paramount roles in the supply chain network and must be optimized as such in order to maximize revenue.