Warehouse operations play a major role in determining how productive and profitable your business will be. Even small-business retail and wholesale warehouses need well-defined policies and standard operating procedures to ensure that operations are efficient and organized. Include your policies and procedures in a comprehensive warehouse handbook that every new employee receives during new-hire orientation.
Policies and Procedures Overview
Warehouse policies are the rules and regulations around which your warehouse operates. While procedures may differ between businesses, most policies focus on common areas. These include health and safety, security, maintenance and cleaning, quality control, record keeping and reporting, and disposing of obsolete and damaged merchandise. In contrast, procedures are step-by-step, best-practice instructions for carrying out daily warehouse activities. Each set of instructions also include internal controls designed to protect your business.
OSHA Safety Regulations
Health and safety, maintenance, and cleaning policies and procedures are rigid and inflexible instructions that comply with Occupational Safety and Health Administration regulations. Policies also describe OSHA warehousing regulations that apply to equipment such as forklifts and conveyor systems, materials and inventory storage, hazardous substances, ergonomics, and lifting and handling. If you need help, the OSHA Warehousing Worker Safety Series has a detailed checklist you can use when writing policies and procedures, and in setting up new-hire training.
Inventory Management and Control
Inventory management policies control the movement and storage of merchandise within the warehouse. In addition to defining an inventory system -- such as first in, first out, or last in, first out -- policies address controls designed to prevent fraud, theft, and misuse of business resources. Controls commonly address warehouse security, define a numbering system for locations and inventory items, and mandate periodic physical inventory counts. Procedures include instructions for counting, inspecting and tagging incoming inventory, storing items on shelves, record keeping, and outbound picking.
Equipment and Maintenance
The equipment section of a warehouse policy identifies required warehouse operations and safety equipment. Policy statements also address equipment storage and maintenance. A new-hire training expectation for using equipment and performing routine maintenance is also included. Many policies address -- and prohibit -- removing equipment such as small tools from the warehouse for personal use. Procedures focus on instructions for using equipment, performing inspections and routine servicing, and filling out maintenance records.