10 Warehouse Ideas for Outstanding Continuous Improvement

10 warehouse ideas for impactful continuous improvement blog post header image
warehouse continuous improvement blog header

The job of a continuous improvement professional is a multi-variable logistical nightmare, and typically they’re juggling multiple processes and implementation projects at once. A warehouse, whether used for manufacturing, storage, distribution, order fulfillment, or all four, is an integral point of the supply chain where many continuous improvement and operational excellence professionals (like yourself) focus on.

Century has over 40 years of working with warehouse operations and understands where streamlining tactics can be administered. Here are our 10 insightful ideas to generate positive warehouse performance.

1. Real-time warehouse visibility

Real-time visibility into warehouse operations through HMI (human-machine interface) will give you valuable control and insight into day-to-day product movement. Allowing warehouse employees detailed error notification, showing the status in all areas of the system, and providing remote access to all control stations located on a system are just three of the major benefits of an HMI.

Adding or updating an HMI program to any automated system immediately begins to increase productivity within a facility, and HMI programs give the warehouse employees a much easier approach to operating an automated system effectively.

2. Evaluate communication channels

How do your warehouse workers communicate with each other (if, at all?). A growing solution that many warehouses are adopting is providing communication methods for employees. This could be as simple as walkie-talkies or as integrated as a voice-to-pick system that prompts employees on picking operations.

Effective communication also extends to project managers. While the typical array of emails, video meetings, and phone calls are here to stay, ERP solutions can integrate direct messages based on specific projects, timelines, and areas of focus. SAP and Oracle are common platforms, but more focused ones like Jira can be implemented as well.

3. Effective waste reduction

Environmental awareness should be an area of continuous improvement for any warehouse. Whether it’s distribution or manufacturing, waste is a byproduct of the operation and must be disposed of or repurposed quickly and effectively.

The most common form of waste disposal is a baler, which typically compresses packaging refuse (like corrugate or plastic). For operations that produce a larger amount of waste, a trash conveyor can move waste into a baler, so all workers must do is move their trash to the line as it automatically takes it away.

4. Maximizing warehouse space usage

Warehouse space is extremely precious-ensuring there’s room for storage, order fulfillment, loading, maintenance, employees, and office space- all while following building codes, is no easy feat. If space is at a premium, but additional systems will need to be implemented in the future, a few capacity-saving solutions can provide some leeway.

  • Inclined and spiral conveyors
    • Suspended conveyor sections above the warehouse floor.
  • Mezzanine structures
    • Walkways and platforms suspended above the warehouse floor.
  • Narrow-aisle racking
    • Special forklifts can be used to access pallets in these lanes
  • ASRS
    • Automated cranes travel within narrow-aisle racking structures to retrieve pallets
  • Shuttle system
    • Items are held in compartments within a complete racking structure, eliminating aisles completely.

If there are warehouse constraints you’re aware of, it may be time to complete a cost-analysis of keeping existing structures or replacing them with space-saving solutions.

5. Influence performance in partners

Transparency and a reporting cadence among partners are key to ensuring your process improvements extend outside of the warehouse. Whether it’s a third-party logistics company that cross-docks your products, or a trucking broker that provides delivery to retail stores, you should be informed of their performance like they’re your own employees.

Many partners provide data reporting software that’ll integrate into your WMS or send automatic updates via an internal portal or email. Review this data and ask questions on any discrepancies, sharing thoughts on where improvements could be made. Fostering open communication and knowledge will benefit both you and your partners and generate performance across the entirety of the supply chain.

6. Reduce manual labor redundancy

Repetitive manual tasks within a warehouse can be a significant profit drain, especially when finding reliable labor is difficult. Although a more expensive upfront cost, automating such tasks quickly pays themselves back and outpaces manual operations in every aspect.

As an example- manual box erecting requires at least one employee (more if it’s a 24-hour warehouse) to simply fold and form boxes all day. An automatic case erector can replace inefficient repetitive laborers, and far outpace their output and associated costs. There are many automated solutions, and each has different benefits and functionality. Century can help you navigate and engineer a system that’ll boost every aspect of your continuous improvement efforts. Shoot us a message on what you’re working on, and we’ll be in touch with you on our thoughts.

7. Spur team collaboration

A term you may have heard before, a kaizen process is the idea that employees from all levels of a company can collaborate together to provide insights and skills in the pursuit of incremental improvement.

Every employee works on a specific touchpoint in your warehouse and most likely has deeper knowledge on whatever they manage the most. In this sense, they can provide expanded details that when rectified, can impact the overall process positively.

For example, a maintenance director may know which systems experience the most downtime, and why. Opening lines of communication and collaboration between different departments can solve inefficiencies that wouldn’t have been recognized otherwise.

8. Integrate powerful WMS systems

The ability to have complete visibility of your warehouse inventory at all times is paramount to operating effectively. A warehouse management system (or WMS) stores vital information such as batch number, storage location, inventory quantity, and a multitude of SKU data for ordering. A WMS can even offer the best shipping rate selector and presents data with specific handling information (like weight and dimensions).

Besides being a source of important product information, a WMS can apply that information within your warehouse operations. For example, if the wrong item is picked and placed on an outbound conveyor, the scan tower will read the label and the WMS will recognize it is in the wrong batch, stopping that section of conveyor and sounding an alarm for a worker to remove the incorrect item.

9. Follow supply chain technology developments

As a continuous improvement professional, you should be aware of new developments in supply chain and warehouse technology. Solutions are becoming more nuanced in the sense that there is very specific functionality it provides, which could offer a potent process improvement if applied correctly.

The best way to stay up to date is by setting up a collection of RSS feeds that gathers news and press release articles from industry-leading websites. RSS.app is a great RSS program to start with. Checking your feeds on a daily basis keeps you in the know and allows you to be a proactive supply chain executive.

10. Establish and compare KPIs

Most importantly, before any continuous improvements are implemented, benchmarking has to be done to validate the cost-benefit and efficacy of your strategies. Identify the implementation points in the warehouse and compare output rates over a certain timeframe.

Coordinate with an engineer or plant manager on the system rates of any solutions used, and set goals on where you’d want those rates to be. Many reporting platforms offer KPI settings to collate data around a preselected criterion. Fine-tune these settings to identify inefficient warehouse touchpoints and explore solutions on what would solve them, while maintaining a positive ROI.


Century System engineers warehouse solutions with your continuous improvement goals implemented. Our process is to work closely with you and other key members of your team to completely understand your vision, budget, and output expectations. Interested in learning more? Send us a message with your thoughts on how’d you like to move forward with your operations, we’d be more than happy to throw in our two cents.

The Lifesaving Importance of a Responsive Medical Device Distribution Operation

medical device and equipment blog post header
medical device distribution blog header post

If the pandemic taught us anything, it’s that distribution operations for medical devices and equipment MUST be poised to accommodate for fluctuations in demand and in supply chain shortages. A multitude of factors can cause important distribution of key medical items to slow:

  • Manufacturing material shortages
  • Shortages in unskilled labor
  • Distribution that cannot handle significant demand
  • Additional safety protocol and procedures
  • Local government enforced restrictions
  • Use of manual operations where automation could be integrated
  • Outdated or ineffective inventory management systems
  • Inaccurate item storage and replenishment

Ensuring stable operations and quick delivery of medical products is paramount to the health and safety of its users, and the integrity of the company providing the distribution. Hospitals and practices are depending on their shipments to treat their patients, and an ineffective distribution system simply won’t cut it.

Dynamic inventory visibility


The first step to updating medical device and equipment distribution is always knowing the status of inventory items. Warehouse visibility is critically important for fulfilling orders, tracking output rates, and replenishing stock.

A warehouse management system (WMS) like SAP or Oracle. These platforms provide insight into inventory, quality procedures, production supply, delivery and transportation specifications, and labor management. The WMS collects data throughout your warehouse by utilizing process touchpoints, like an order manifest or a shipping label scan, to accurately track and provide details on all movements.

Depending on the solutions integrated within a facility, program integrations can be added to provide additional functionality. For example, Hytrol provides their Pivot software, so that their systems can more easily communicate and provide data to the entirety of the WMS.

It’s important to accurately have a grasp on the daily ongoings of every warehouse operation, and before investing in any automation, having full visibility of your operations is a must.

Reliable and quick order fulfillment


With medical devices and equipment, the time when an order is manifested, to when it ships out should always be analyzed for continuous improvement. What manual operations do you currently employ that could be automated? Essentially, every link in an order fulfillment process has an equivalent automated solution that will greatly outpace manual labor.

With medical devices and equipment, the time when an order is manifested, to when it ships out should always be analyzed for continuous improvement. What manual operations do you currently employ that could be automated? Essentially, every link in an order fulfillment process has an equivalent automated solution that will greatly outpace manual labor.

  • Box forming- case formers and erectors, robotic arm formers
  • Box sealing- case sealers, tapers
  • Movement and picking of items- conveyors, shuttles, AGVs/AMRs
  • Print and Apply- Automatic shipping label printers and applicators
  • Sortation- Sorter conveyors and shuttles
  • Palletizing- Automatic robot-arm palletizers/depalletizers
  • Storage- canted racking systems, ASRS units
  • And much more

System downtime avoidance


System downtime is a constant threat to a continuously profitable operation. The importance of proper maintenance and ongoing support is paramount to keeping orders shipping on time and clients satisfied. Unplanned downtime can cost companies up to $250,000 per hour, with 82% of businesses experiencing at least one system outage over the past three years (source).

In the medical devices and equipment vertical, unexpected downtime should be prevented at all costs, considering the importance of the contents being handled. Before a new solution is engineered and installed, plan a routine maintenance schedule. This may include technicians visiting your site a few months out of the year to do a check-up and replace anything that may be worn or broken. It’s also good practice to maintain a parts supply, in the event a critical part fails, and an immediate replacement is needed

Automation for sterile environments


In the wake of the pandemic, various companies have fortified their approach to employee safety and facility cleanliness. In a distribution facility for medical devices and equipment, where sanitization is a necessary step in the supply chain, automation can integrate as well.

AMRs (autonomous mobile robots) have recently been implemented with sanitization functionality. Tooling is switched out for bacteria-killing UV lights, or a disinfecting spray. Autonomous floor cleaning robots are also common, providing reliable, routine cleaning while forgoing the need for an employee to operate a cleaner manually.

Flexible warehouse engineering


Warehouse distribution processes can experience a significant downward trend of output efficiency by a variety of outside factors if future-focused automation options aren’t accounted for in the engineering phase. When selecting a solution, always ensure that your engineer leaves room for future systems to be installed or additional functionality for existing systems (retrofitting)

Consider the trajectory of your business. Are you expecting a new product line or special handling process (such as cold storage) to be integrated in the future? Careful evaluation should be practiced, as warehouse space is precious.


Century Systems has had experience with engineering distribution systems for medical devices and equipment companies (here’s a case study on a past client of ours), and we understand the importance of reliable and stable output rates. All of our projects are designed to be as efficient, turnkey, and results-driven as possible.

10 Tips on How to Implement Powerful Automation for Wholesale Distribution

wholesale automation solutions blog header image
10 powerful automation solutions for wholesale distribution blog header image

Operating a wholesale distribution process is a complex series of moving parts. Each organization has a mix of inventory and typically involves itself in the process of purchasing, storing, and selling products to end buyers like retailers or other wholesalers. With the number of items wholesalers handle daily, it’s no surprise that many invest in automated solutions to enhance operations.

“Product availability and quality is a key element, together with a delivery service that is accurate and efficient is a driving force for businesses.”

Sedat Kaan Hendekli
Head of Operations at JJ Foodservice
Source: BetterWholesaling.com

The burning question is, what automation works best for the wholesale industry? We’ve compiled a list of 10 automation applications that we’ve experienced integrating in the past for some of our wholesale clients.

1. Robust inventory management system


The ability to have complete visibility of a wholesale operation at all times is paramount to effective distribution. A warehouse management system (or WMS) stores vital information such as scan dates, storage location, supply quantities, and a multitude of SKU data for ordering. Depending on the manufacturer, automation systems can integrate with a WMS and provide even more functionality and reporting data.

Besides being a source of important product information, a WMS can apply that information within your warehouse operations. For example, if the wrong item is picked and placed on an outbound conveyor, the scan tower will read the label and the WMS will recognize it is in the wrong batch, stopping that section of the conveyor and sounding an alarm for a worker to remove the incorrect item.

2. Robotic palletizing for redistribution


For wholesalers who use pallets, either robotic palletizing solutions automatically build and break a pallet. A wide variety of robots and end of arm tooling can accommodate most carton sizes and complex layer build configurations for pallets.

The speed and stability of robotic palletizing greatly outpace that of manual pallet building and even lift trucks. For further automation, completed pallets can be conveyed from a robotic cell to an inline stretch wrap operation, replacing tedious manual wrapping.

3. Rapid order fulfillment


Delivery expectations have greatly increased in recent years, primarily due to the prevalence of same or one-day shipping offerings online. Those expectations have extended to wholesaler clients, whose operations must match a competitive wholesale e-commerce landscape. Much like adjacent markets (third-party logistics, for example), automating order fulfillment is key to satisfying customers, while also offering an edge over the competition who don’t have quick shipping incentives.

A tried-and-true conveyor system is best suited for order fulfillment. Depending on the size of the warehouse it’s installed in, and the product being transported, a conveyor system can include a variety of automation:

  • Pack Tables
  • Carton Forming
  • Carton Sealing
  • Label Printing and Application
  • Destination Sortation
  • Loading Assistance

4. Automation-aided picking


For most wholesale operations, an inventory boasting thousands of different products and items is normal. Order picking is usually where inefficiencies are identified, as manual labor is greatly outpaced by a variety of automation solutions.

  • ASRS
    • An ASRS (Automatic Storage and Retrieval System) uses a crane attached to a horizontal and vertical track, scaling the racking structure, and using extendable forks to handle pallets. The operator terminal provides information on what product is stored where, and the ASRS operates when a retrieve or store command is inputted.
  • AMR/AGV
    • Automated Guided Vehicles (AGV) and Autonomous Mobile Vehicles (AMR) both provide a multitude of functions, typically moving items from one area of the facility to another, absent of human interaction. The difference between the two is in the way it senses the environment. AGV’s move by using a sensor that follows a set path (typically a form of sticker or tape on the ground). AMRs move by sensing objects around them, and learning an optimal path. In this sense, both have applications that one or the other is better suited to.
  • Shuttle Systems
    • For the best of both worlds, a shuttle system utilizes pick robots within a racking structure. When an order is being fulfilled, the robot navigates to the compartment where the item is held, retrieves it, and brings it to the worker’s pack station or an item dispenser receptacle.

5. Flexible packaging


It goes without saying that a massive catalog of products varying in weight and size would need packaging solutions just as versatile.

Automation systems, such as conveyors, are manufactured in different dimensions and applications and can be engineered in a warehouse layout to accommodate cartons of varying sizes and fragility.

We go in-depth on carton packing solutions in our 3PL Automated Box Packing Solutions for Powerful and Profitable Order Fulfillment post.

6. Reliable sortation


Sortation systems separate products for induction into individual lanes typically associated with an outbound destination. Various types of sortation and conveyor systems are often connected to comprise a fully functioning material handling solution.

Wholesalers supply a diverse range of customers from all over, so quick, and accurate diverts are required to keep items moving and heading to the right destination. Selecting the correct type of sortation system is where the most thought should be put, as it all matters on the dimensions of the product being moved.

7. Effective pallet handling


Pallets can be cumbersome to transport throughout a warehouse, so offering simple solutions to warehouse workers to decrease human touchpoints with pallets can prove effective.

  • Pallet conveyor
  • Pallet flow rails
  • Pallet lifters
  • Pallet positioners
  • Gravity racking
  • Tugger and dolly attachments for AGVs

8. Maximize warehouse space


Wholesale warehouse space is extremely precious. Ensuring there’s room for storage, order fulfillment, loading, maintenance, employees, and office- all while following building codes, is no easy feat. If space is at a premium, but additional systems will need to be implemented in the future, a few capacity-saving solutions can provide some leeway.

  • Inclined and spiral conveyors
    • Suspended conveyor sections above the warehouse floor.
  • Mezzanine structures
    • Walkways and platforms suspended above the warehouse floor.
  • Narrow-aisle racking
    • Special forklifts can be used to access pallets in these lanes
  • ASRS
    • Automated cranes travel within narrow-aisle racking structures to retrieve pallets
  • Shuttle system
    • Items are held in compartments within a complete racking structure, eliminating aisles completely.

9. Accurate reverse logistics


Returns are a constant area of disconnect in operations when it comes to order fulfillment. There needs to be a planned intake process to return the items to storage and re-fulfill the order with the correct products.

When returns enter back into a warehouse, they’re put in a separate staging area. Depending on the condition of the item, or whatever the nature of the return is, it may be returned to inventory, sent to another distributor who sells discount items or discarded.

Once a return item has been rescanned in the system, the customer’s order will either be marked as fulfilled (so they can receive their money back) or another order will be placed (in the event they were sent the wrong item, but they still need the correct item sent to them).

10. Forecast planning and optimization


Warehouse automation continues to improve as newer technologies are created and adapted. Artificial intelligence (AI), drones, machine vision, voice-to-robotic-pick, and warehouse data-driven learned actions are just a few examples of what’s on the horizon.

The wholesale industry is only going to grow, and understanding the current constraints of your warehouse, and the projected sales volume per quarter should be your guiding logic as to what automation can be implemented, and when.


Century Systems has had experience engineering systems for the wholesale industry (here’s a case study on a past client of ours), and we understand the importance of reliable and stable output rates. All of our projects are designed to be as efficient, turnkey, and results-driven as possible.