10 Warehouse Ideas for Outstanding Continuous Improvement

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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.

7 Cost-saving and Effective Warehouse Solutions for Wine and Spirits Distribution

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Distributing wine and spirits is a delicate and demanding operation. Warehouses are expected to process, store, and fulfill a massive catalog of products to a wide portfolio of clients, all with their own special requests. An operations employee in a distribution warehouse has their work cut out for them, as the constant supply and demand fluctuates depending on a multitude of factors like seasonality, geography, product timing, and more.

Investing in an automated wine and spirits warehouse solution can absolutely support operations in more ways than one, moving product safely, quickly, and where it needs to be. Evaluating current warehouse operations is certainly a smart move, especially considering the status of the wine and spirits industry now, and in the near future.

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“We believe there is a permanent consumer shift to more online purchases of wine, which will expand with the coming of age of millennial consumers.”

SVB: State of the Wine Industry Report 2021

To help in your evaluation, here are 7 cost-saving and effective warehouse solutions that’ll support your wine and spirits distribution operations.

1. Labeling and shipping costs

Correct labeling of alcoholic beverages is not only important for delivery operations but needed for state alcohol regulations and the associated shipping costs. Recurring mislabeling can incur hefty fees and make distribution a headache. Automated print and apply systems can streamline these processes and lower error rates and are relatively easy to add to a warehouse operation. Labeling machines produce the correct shipping information and apply the label by stamping it as the carton passes by, without the need to pick up or stop the product.

2. Warehouse Management System (WMS)

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 alcohol percentage, storage location, best-by dates for rotation, and a multitude of SKU data for ordering. A WMS can even offer a best shipping rate selector and presents data with correct state alcohol regulations applied.

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.

3. Direct to consumer wine and spirits shipping

The prevalence of direct-to-consumer (D2C) wine and spirits services continue to grow, with wine clubs, subscription boxes, alcoholic beverage delivery, and other flexible solutions becoming more common with consumers. If you are looking to expand your consumer base, investing in a D2C approach early can prove proliferous in the near future. Order fulfillment automation solutions are versatile enough to fit within any step of your operation, ranging from automatic item picking to shipping label application. The importance of effective packing operations to avoid breakage should also be considered. Careful selection of package erecting, sealing, and void-filling machines are all a part of integrating a wine or liquor order fulfillment warehouse process.

4. Gapping and breakage reduction

An unfortunate truth of the wine and spirits distribution industry is that product breakage can and will happen. All you can do in your warehouse is minimize it. An effective method of doing so is using a zero-pressure accumulation conveyor. These gravity conveyors do no allow products to touch each other, using an array of sensors to properly gap infeeding operations, and stopping when the accumulation zone is full.

To increase product safety, a herringbone (canted rollers) design can be used to avoid product from making contact with side railing and guards. For even more stability, a cascade release function can be implemented, which staggers conveyor zones as product begins to move. This provides a small gap between each product when operations start and stop.

5. Storage solutions for reserves and limited run beverages

Managing a fully stocked wine and spirit storage can get complicated when limited run products and desirables vintages are concerned. This creates a need for both short-term and long-term pallet storage. Automation in the form of an ASRS (automatic storage and retrieval system) can rapidly retrieve pallets that need to be distributed or store long-term inventory in the most optimal spot within a racking system. An ASRS uses a crane attached to 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.

6. Cross-docking for quick sortation and delivery of non-stored items

Cross-docking is a warehouse operation that processes items, sorts them to the correct location, and sends them right back out for transportation. Packages are introduced and sent to their destination route quickly and efficiently without storing or spending more than 24 hours in a cross-docking operation.

For high-volume wine and spirit warehouses, this method provides extremely effective in getting product to stores or delivering to customers.

7. Flexibility in handling a variety of packaging types

Wine and spirit companies are innovating in specialty packaging types to attract customers in a constantly competitive product environment. Coupled with the growing sales of cannabis, companies are investing a significant amount in resources to ensure their product stands out.

Wine and spirits warehouse distribution operations must be dynamic enough to maintain current clients and attract new ones who have packaging designs that call for special handling. 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.


Century Systems has extensive experience in integrating warehouse automation systems in the wine and spirits material handling industry. View the video below on a system we engineered and integrated with Fedway Associates.

7 Dynamic Tips to Reduce Bottle Breakage in Your Wine and Spirits Distribution Warehouse

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Product breakage is a constant loss factor

The largest source of product loss in a wine and spirits distribution operation is undoubtedly bottle breakage and damage. Human error, product movement, and difficult storage methods can all be factors that result in damages.

In the case of one of Century’s wine and spirits clients, implementing our solutions resulting in a 75% decrease in product breakage. To give an example of how impactful that change is, imagine a distributor processing 30,000 cases a day. Each case, on average, is valued at $100 dollars. If their breakage rate is 1.25%, that’s $37,500 dollars lost on breakage from a total of $3,000,000.

A 75% decrease in the breakage rate would result in a much more manageable loss of $22,500- and that number can lower even more depending on the level of automation. That’s close to $5.5 million saved per year.

If your breakage rate is on the higher end, it may be worth your time to evaluate your material handling operations. We have some valuable recommendations on where to look first.

1. Indexing Belt Accumulation

An effective method of preventing product breakage is the use of an indexing belt accumulation conveyor. These powered conveyors do not allow products to touch each other, using an array of sensors to properly gap infeeding operations, and stopping when the accumulation zone is full.

The product can be placed normally on the conveyor, and it’ll automatically speed or slow down zones to achieve safe spacing between each package.

2. Warehouse Control Software

Setting the operating parameters on a system play an important part in preventing product breakage. The software, depending on the system manufacturer, controls conveyor zone functions like speed, braking, idling, and more. When a system is first installed, or being upgraded, these settings are fine-tuned for efficiency and safety and can be easily changed in the future if need be. Warehouse Control Systems are versatile and offer a variety of customized system settings.

3. Cascading Release Function

A cascade release function staggers conveyor zones as the product begins to move. This provides a small gap between each product when operations start and stop. This function helps exponentially with end-of-line operations where a truck is being loaded, and the product is accumulating as it’s being moved from the conveyor to the bay.

Instead of the product pushing against each other, the conveyor can stop and move when space is available, to maintain proper gapping so that product never touches.

4. Skewed Roller Design (Herringbone)

To increase product safety, a skewed roller (herringbone) design can be used to avoid product from making contact with side railing and guards.

Skewed rollers are pointed diagonally inward, keeping cases positioned in the middle of the conveyor. Advancements in the packaging of alcohol mean solutions must accommodate a variety of carton dimensions and material types. Skewed roller designs provide additional flexibility and stability in any automated warehouse operation.

5. Telescoping Extendable

Typically, a warehouse worker picks up packages from an outfeeding source, walks over to the truck, and loads it. Even in this simple operation, it’s where most breakage mistakes occur, as employees can drop or jostle cases.

The solution is to eliminate the extra risk of having the worker walk over to the truck. A telescoping extendable conveyor attaches to an outfeeding source and can be operated so it extends into and out of the trailer as the worker loads. This allows for a much more stable operation and minimizes product damage by conveying the product directly to the worker, who places it into the trailer.

6. Robotic Palletizing/Depalletizing

For warehouses that use pallets, robotic palletizing solutions automatically handle and can build or deconstruct pallets. 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.

7. Automatic Pallet Storage

In warehouses that store a high volume of products, stacking pallets is a common sight. The issue is when pallets are being stacked over two high. This creates stress for cartons on the bottom of the supporting pallet, which could compress cartons, cause leakage, or topple the stacked pallets. The risk extends further when considering possible operator error in the action of stacking, such as dropping the pallet from too high or placing it unevenly.

Reducing breakage during storing and retrieving is best achieved by the usage of an ASRS (Automatic Storage and Retrieval System). An ASRS is a rack-supported structure with a track-mounted crane that can be programmed to navigate itself to a racking space to either remove or place a pallet. The advantages are clear, stacking does not need to be used, an automated crane is exponentially more accurate and stable than a forklift, and warehouse space is regained (as racking allows higher stacking, and the aisle for the cranes are thinner than typical racking structures).


Century Systems has extensive experience in integrating warehouse automation systems in the wine and spirits material handling industry. View the video below on a system we engineered and integrated with Fedway Associates.