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Managing a Mixed Warehouse

In one of my earlier blogs, Removing the Mystery for Serialization Stakeholders, I talked about the need to identify internal stakeholders who will be most impacted by serialization and ensure that change is effectively managed with them.  The warehouse team is one of the key groups heavily impacted by serialization track & trace.  And one of the biggest challenges for this team is managing a mixed warehouse of serialized and non-serialized inventory. Most organizations need to determine how they will manage a warehouse where new products are serialized and others are non-serialized.  Not having a good “walk-on” strategy could put warehouse operations at risk and impact the organization’s ability to meet their customer requirements. One approach is to draw down non-serialized product inventory and build up serialized inventory such that the warehouse is ready to operate in a serialized environment for that product.  Another strategy is to segregate the serialized inventory to allow the warehouse operators to handle that inventory differently from non-serialized inventory.  Either approach requires the warehouse team to understand the strategy and work in coordination with others to execute. The best first step in preparing the warehouse team for this change is to engage warehouse personnel during the design and build phases of the implementation.  Their participation is not only useful for making practical decisions, but it also helps with buy-in as we move into execution.  We must also train them on their day-to-day roles, highlighting key changes, and there is no substitute for an effective training program.  We have to start early on planning training – creating a schedule to ensure that all warehouse employees can step away from their duties to attend training is not as easy as it sounds. Although the warehouse team is the primary group impacted with managing a mixed warehouse, we can’t forget production planning and customer service who play key roles in coordinating and communicating with manufacturing and warehouse staff to plan and ship serialized product.  We need to make sure these stakeholders also understand our warehouse approach and are trained effectively.  A well-understood, coordinated strategy among all stakeholders will ensure warehouse operations are minimally impacted, and ultimately our customers experience minimal disruption.