For most managers, the warehouse audit isn’t the most exciting part of the job. Many managers and employees dread audits as you would a bad report card. However, when done properly, an audit can be a powerful tool to improve every aspect of a warehouse. Download these 6 warehouse auditing steps as mandated by Health and Safety Councils to revitalize your auditing process. With these steps, each audit will bring you closer to your goals for your warehouse.
Keep reading to learn more about what warehouse audits are, why they’re important, and how to use the information you gain from them.
What Is a Warehouse Audit?
A warehouse audit is an inspection that warehouse managers perform. Audits ensure that a warehouse is running as it should be in all important ways.
Warehouse audits take into consideration safety, inventory management, and general operations, among other things. Warehouse audits remain consistent across time, so warehouse performance can be measured according to the audits that have been performed.
Why Are Warehouse Audits Important?
You surely strive to make sure that safety protocols are followed, inventory is managed properly, and all other operations are done according to regulations every day. So why is it essential to conduct warehouse auditing steps regularly?
Even the most fastidious manager and experienced staff can fall into bad habits. Company culture can change over time, even to the point of no longer following appropriate protocols. It can be hard to spot these changes until they cause a problem since they are happening so gradually.
Audits act as a consistent report card for your warehouse. They inform management of potential issues before they cause problems and help to keep workers on track.
Don’t Dread Completing Warehouse Auditing Steps
For most warehouse managers and employees, audits aren’t much fun. You may not feel motivated to make time in your busy day to conduct a lengthy audit process. Furthermore, the audit will only point out problems that you’ll have to solve.
When done regularly, audits can actually be very encouraging. You can probably think of a persistent problem in your warehouse that you can’t seem to solve. Regular audits hold warehouse managers and workers to a mutually agreed-upon standard.
Following warehouse auditing steps properly can significantly reduce the tension between managers and between managers and employees. When problems are laid out clearly and steps put in place to solve them, it’s harder for some managers and workers to pretend the problems don’t exist while others try to solve them.
When To Conduct Warehouse Audits
Perform Some Warehouse Auditing Steps More Often
For the vast majority of warehouses, the answer to the question of when to conduct warehouse audits is simple: more often. The vast majority of warehouses don’t conduct audits frequently enough.
When too much time goes by between audits or when audits are conducted arbitrarily they are significantly less helpful. Audits are most useful when they are conducted monthly. That doesn’t mean that you have to conduct a full audit of every part of your warehouse every month.
Instead, break up the audit process into more manageable chunks that more effectively accomplish the goal of improving warehouse processes. What does your warehouse struggle with? Audit those areas more often.
You also want to audit important or risky areas more often. For instance, you may want to perform a monthly check of the storage racks that workers load and unload from. However, you may only need to check the storage racks at the back of the warehouse that rarely receive loads every quarter. If you had issues with forklift protocol but no issues with conveyor belts, make sure to conduct the forklift audit monthly but do the conveyor belt inspection at less frequent intervals.
Do All Warehouse Auditing Steps Before the Peak Season
Regardless of your usual audit schedule, always conduct a complete audit before the peak season begins. The peak season sees a dramatic increase in orders. Despite an influx of temporary workers, hours are long for people and equipment before and during the holiday months.
Therefore, you need to make sure that your warehouse is in the best possible condition before the rush begins. This is not a time for a rushed or cursory audit. You’re surely busy as you prepare for peak season. However, it’s essential to take time to conduct a thorough audit.
After all, you’ll save time in the end by noting and solving problems before peak season pushes your warehouse to the breaking point. Not to mention, this process will create a more enjoyable and safer working environment for employees.
How To Improve Your Warehouse Audit Performance
It’s frustrating to keep getting poor audit reports over and over again. This experience is likely why so many warehouse managers dread audits. If you’re struggling to improve your warehouse’s performance, it may be your training program that’s at fault.
A highly customizable and easy-to-use training program can make all of the difference in improving your employees’ performance and therefore enabling your warehouse to run more smoothly. Here are a few features of a great training program that will make you look forward to your audits:
- Constantly evolving. Keep changing your training program, tweaking it to make it better, and experimenting to see if a change will have the desired effect.
- Employee-led. Put training in the hands of employees so they can perform training segments as they are on the job. The ability to learn as they go and repeat the training as needed will reduce mistakes and make it more likely that employees will retain the information they learn.
- Incorporates audit parameters. Make sure that your training directly corresponds to what the audit will measure. With good metrics to measure employee performance, you’ll be able to better measure and improve performance.
What are the 6 Warehouse Auditing Steps?
Here are the 6 steps you’ll follow to conduct an effective warehouse audit. Get all the details of how to conduct each step by downloading the checklist.
- Count and evaluate inventory.
- Examine equipment to ensure it is working and being maintained properly.
- Walk the warehouse space to see that ladders, storage racks, cleaning stations, etc. are up to par.
- Conduct a thorough safety examination, including personal protective equipment for employees, spill cleanup kits, fire extinguishers, etc.
- Look at employee performance on multiple levels, including cooperation with teammates, work performance, and training.
- Check general warehouse operations for delays, product handling, predictability, and other workflow concerns.
You’ve followed the 6 Warehouse Auditing Steps – Now What?
You’ve implemented a thorough and regular audit schedule, and audit reports are coming in every month. Now what? Conducting the audit is only the first step.
The hard part is using the information you’re receiving to recognize trends and implement meaningful change. Here are a few ideas to help you make the most of the information you get from audit reports:
1. Make Your Warehouse Safer
The most important area your audit will consider is safety. Warehouses can be very dangerous places to work. Workers in “transportation and warehousing” were injured at a rate of one out of every four workers in 2020. This is one of the highest injury rates of all private industries.
Thankfully, regular audits are a cheap and effective tool that can dramatically increase safety at your warehouse.
How to do it
Conduct the safety portion of your audit often. Regular audits are especially essential for high-risk areas of your warehouse, like around forklifts and other moving machinery. When you do see problems come up in audits, address them directly and quickly.
A company culture of ignoring safety protocols cannot be tolerated in warehouses. When errors are noted, repeat training for employees who were involved or for entire departments, depending on the severity of the issue.
2. Improve Employee Performance
A good audit doesn’t just cover how well the warehouse functions, but how well individual workers are functioning within it. It can be overwhelming to monitor employee performance in an industry that has as high a turnover rate as warehouses do.
However, if you aren’t carefully monitoring worker performance, you can expect turnover to remain high and morale low at your warehouse. Training employees doesn’t just make them better workers. It motivates them to invest more in your warehouse and often encourages them to stay longer.
How to do it
how.fm training platform can be tailored to each individual employee’s language and learning style. You can assign training programs to each employee depending on what you see on their performance audits. Keep in mind that training doesn’t have to be limited to improving poor performance. It can also prepare your best employees for promotion.
- Does an employee consistently struggle to record inventory properly? Assign a training protocol that lays out inventory record-keeping clearly so employees can watch as many times as they like as they master the process.
- Does an employee consistently complete tasks ahead of their peers? Offer training to promote them to a higher level.
3. Increase Efficiency
Comparing audits across time can allow you to see where your warehouse ebbs and flows in its processes and look for ways to make it more efficient. Perhaps you notice a slowdown every time a certain type of order comes in.
By looking more closely into those orders and seeing why they slow down your process, you may be able to eliminate the issue. It may be that there’s a type of paperwork involved that always makes the employee unpacking the order stop to ask the supervisor. Maybe the order is poorly labeled, so it takes more time than it should to make it to the loading dock. These are the sorts of issues that would likely never be made visible without the assistance of an audit.
How to do it
Make sure to compare audits across time. Audits that are clearly organized with well-understood metrics are very helpful in measuring efficiency. For instance, you may record the time it takes to perform a certain warehouse function every time the audit is conducted. You can then look at the occasions when times were fastest and compare them to times that were slowest and decide if there are variables that can be controlled to improve the time.
4. Set and Meet Long-term Goals
Too often, warehouse work is a juggling act. Warehouse managers often spend more time responding to issues than they do planning for long time improvements. Audits allow you to set benchmarks so that you can see whether your warehouse is approaching long-term goals. You will find that it doesn’t take long to include long-term planning into your management duties, but that it pays off dramatically.
How to do it
Make a goal and set a time frame. It’s okay if the time frame ends up being off in the end. The point is to have a measurable benchmark that you can compare audit reports to. Look at the trends for the area you’re measuring month by month and see if you’re improving at a rate that will get you to your benchmark.
If you’re not, do all you can to improve the process and then reassess the benchmark. Over time, you’ll find your warehouse getting closer and closer to these important long-term goals.
5. Improve Your Training Program
If your warehouse training program is static over time, it’s not serving your warehouse or your employees like it could be. Training programs should be fluid, constantly adapting to the changing needs of your employees. Audits are a superb tool for making your training program the best it can be.
How to do it
Look for trends across employee performance in particular areas, mistakes or miscommunications that recur often in the same situations, and other places where improved training could change the outcome. Whenever you are instituting training to improve employee performance, discuss the training with the employee to see if they understood it and if it offered clear guidance. When you find that a training program isn’t working well for employees, change it.
Free Checklist: 6 Warehouse Auditing Steps as Mandated by Health and Safety Councils
Are you fed up with a warehouse that doesn’t have an effective or consistent auditing system? Want to ensure that your warehouse is compliant and following the best safety protocols? These warehouse auditing steps cover everything you need to get started with a great auditing program. Use it as a launchpad to customize the audit to your specific warehouse. You’ll be amazed by how much more smoothly your warehouse runs with a great audit system.