In recent years, the ecommerce industry has grown exponentially. With more purchases made online, the inevitable result is an increase in returns. Consumers make online purchases year-round, not just during the holiday season or other limited timeframes. Gone are the days of a defined “returns season”—now, it’s a year-round reality that requires constant attention, preparedness, and warehouse maintenance.
Daily warehouse operations are constantly changing and can become chaotic. Packages are coming in and going out faster than you can keep up, and your workers are stretched thin. Further slowing things down are equipment malfunctions, making matters even worse. But with a little focus on warehouse maintenance, you can get back on track and handle the never-ending returns season like a pro.
To improve the returns process, you might be so focused on finding new ways to streamline operations that it’s easy to forget to take care of the backbone of your warehouse operations—your equipment. Neglecting warehouse maintenance can result in unexpected downtime, equipment failure, and safety risks in the future.
A well-maintained warehouse, or fulfillment center, means that the working environment is safe and clean, the equipment is in good working order, and the layout is efficient. This ensures that the returns management process runs smoothly and that the teams can process returns quickly and accurately. Regularly scheduled preventative maintenance is essential to keep equipment in good working order and helps us identify and fix problems before they become major issues.
Warehouse maintenance teams can dramatically improve your returns management processes. To ensure that, it’s essential for the warehouse maintenance team to focus on the following areas of warehouse maintenance:
By focusing on these areas of warehouse maintenance, your team will be better prepared to handle the demands of the returns process and improve its efficiency. Periodic review and focus areas updates will help to prepare the team for future challenges.
The key to success when handling returns is to be proactive with your warehouse maintenance. Don’t wait for something to break down before you fix it. Instead, schedule regular inspections and maintenance to catch any issues before they become big problems.
Keep detailed records of when your equipment was last serviced, and set reminders for future maintenance. Improving the often-overlooked warehouse maintenance can impact the return process immensely. It's important to remember that it's a continuous effort to improve warehouse maintenance and return processes.
Here are three areas to consider when practicing proactive warehouse maintenance:
When it comes to the returns process, having a solid warehouse maintenance schedule can make all the difference. By taking a proactive approach to maintenance, you can reduce the risk of equipment failure and unexpected downtime. These are the two things that can quickly derail even the best-laid plans. By scheduling regular check-ups, you'll be able to catch any potential issues before they become too hard to handle. This allows you to take corrective measures and keep operations running smoothly.
Having a maintenance schedule also helps you keep track of when each piece of equipment was last serviced and when it's due for its next check-up. This helps you prioritize your maintenance tasks and ensures that nothing gets overlooked. With a clear schedule in place, you'll be able to allocate your resources more effectively and minimize any disruptions to your operations.
Additionally, a well-maintained warehouse also helps save money in the long run by extending the life of your equipment and reducing the need for costly repairs and replacements.
Utilizing tech automation, you can streamline your operations and free up your workers to focus on more critical tasks.
For example, you can use automation to schedule regular check-ups and maintenance tasks, and set reminders for future maintenance. You can also use sensors and real-time monitoring to detect any potential issues with your equipment, allowing you to take corrective measures.
With real-time data and analytics, you can track the performance of your assets and identify trends or patterns that could indicate a potential problem. With a reliable computerized maintenance management system (CMMS), you can automate these tasks.
With the right tools and technology, you can handle the returns with ease, keeping your workers safe and productive and improving the overall efficiency of your operations.
Training the warehouse maintenance team can also play a crucial role in improving the returns process. By investing in your workers, you're not only making them more skilled and effective, but you're also helping to ensure that your equipment is always in good working order. A well-trained team will be better equipped to handle equipment maintenance and repairs, reducing the risk of downtime and keeping your operations running smoothly.
When it comes to training your team, consider focusing on areas like equipment maintenance, safety procedures, and troubleshooting. By providing your workers with the knowledge and skills they need to do their jobs effectively, you're helping to reduce the risk of equipment failure. Additionally, by promoting a culture of safety and continuous improvement, you can help your workers feel valued and motivated, improving overall job satisfaction and boosting morale.
The returns process can be stressful for any warehouse, but with a focus on warehouse maintenance, you can get through it with ease. By being proactive, keeping detailed records, and taking advantage of the benefits of a well-maintained warehouse, you’ll be able to handle the demand, improve efficiency, and keep your workers safe and productive. So, don’t neglect warehouse maintenance, it’s essential to your success in handling never-ending returns season and beyond.
One final thought: You should also consider crafting and publishing a clear ecommerce return policy on your website to reduce the likelihood of returns—or at least level expectations.
Searching for a warehouse partner that won't eat your profits? Check out our warehousing guide.
A note about our guest author:
Bryan Christiansen is the founder and CEO of Limble CMMS. Limble is a modern, easy-to-use mobile CMMS software that takes the stress and chaos out of maintenance by helping managers organize, automate, and streamline their maintenance operations.
Ecommerce fulfillment is complex—so it's important that your 3PL provides reliable fulfillment customer support. Understand how common 3PL support models differ.
Ecommerce brands should establish a reliable product distribution strategy early on—and be sure to find solutions that are prepared to scale with them.