Warehouse Receiving: The Process for Inbound Warehousing

Examining the warehouse receiving process and how to optimize it for the best possible inbound, storage, and inventory tracking possible!

Any business that relies on warehousing must receive goods into that warehouse regardless of what type of warehouse it is. In this article, we examine the practice of warehouse receiving and some best practices for doing this accurately and safely. If you are responsible for warehouse operations read on for more information!

warehouse receiving

Table of Contents

What is warehouse receiving?

Warehouse receiving is the process used to accept goods delivered to a warehouse. This includes checking for any discrepancies between what was ordered and what was received, and the process for storing inventory. But warehouse receiving is much more than just unloading goods and checking against documentation.

The Process for Receiving Goods in a Warehouse

Receiving goods into a warehouse is (at least) a three-step process that begins with unloading, inspecting, and confirming each item on the delivery list; followed by stocking them in their designated locations; and finally, completing the receiving documentation.

  1. Unloading & Inspecting: The first step is to unload the goods from the delivery truck and inspect them for any signs of damage or discrepancies between what was ordered and what was received.
  2. Stocking: After inspection, the goods are then stored in their designated locations within the warehouse. This should be done in an organized manner to ensure efficient retrieval when needed.
  3. Documenting: Finally, the receiving clerk needs to complete any necessary paperwork such as delivery orders or invoices. All documents should be completed and filed appropriately for future reference.

The Number 1 Mistake in Warehouse Receiving

You might think that missing one of these steps is the most common problem that creates issues in a warehouse operation. While that may happen from time to time, simply missing a step is not the number 1 mistake in warehouse receiving. The biggest mistake is not having a clearly defined process at all. In fact, it’s probably better to have a bad process than no process at all.

By neglecting to create and follow proper unloading protocols or checklists, warehouses, and businesses are exposed to a sequence of potential issues such as inaccurate inventory tracking or even lost property. Such missteps adversely alter detailed stock counts which snowballs into other issues. This is because receiving is just the first step for an entire chain of events that happen inside a warehouse. As problems enter the system early on, they become exponentially more costly and time-consuming as they progress down the line.

Consider the case of a fulfillment center that has no real method for where to store inventory, tracking inventory, purchasing inventory, or even inventory counts. It’s easy to see why such an example of a poor warehouse receiving process can cause big problems like inventory imbalances, and dead stock in fulfillment operations.

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10 Benefits of a Good Warehouse Receiving Process

A good warehouse receiving process provides several tangible benefits to the organization. The most immediate is increased accuracy and efficiency in stock tracking, meaning that the operation can quickly identify any discrepancies between what was ordered and what was received. This leads to improved customer satisfaction as orders are fulfilled more accurately and with fewer delays. Furthermore, as goods unload and store more efficiently, total inventory costs reduce. This also improves safety as proper procedures prevent any unnecessary accidents.

Increased Inventory Accuracy

Good warehouse receiving practices are essential to the accuracy of an inventory count. By following a systematic process when receiving goods into a warehouse, businesses can ensure that their stock is accurate and up-to-date. This helps to minimize discrepancies between what was ordered and what was delivered, as well as reducing the risk of lost or damaged goods. Inventory management systems do exactly this: systematizing your inventory process so there are fewer mistakes with inventory storage and inventory inspection.

Establishing a checklist for how you go about storing inventory will ensure that you have the optimal amount of stock at all times. Leveraging inventory accounting software and technology, like an inventory scanner that updates in real time, can make this process even more efficient and reliable. This also guarantees that what is actually shipped matches what was ordered originally – invaluable when it comes to keeping customers happy!

Reduced Freight Costs Due to Fewer Errors in Receiving and Shipping

The ideal time to handle discrepancies in received goods vs. the receipt, or damaged or quality concerns is as (or even before) they unload. By accurately and thoroughly inspecting shipments, a receiving department may choose to reject a shipment based on these discrepancies. Depending on agreements with suppliers, the freight cost may return to the supplier in these circumstances. Additionally, the labor cost to unload and store the incorrect items diminishes.

Increased Order Fulfillment Speed and Efficiency

Good warehouse receiving practices help to speed up order fulfillment by ensuring that only the correct quantity, quality, and type of goods enter the warehouse. Furthermore, adhering to good receiving processes ensures that items are placed in the warehouse and documented so warehouse pickers know exactly where to go to access them.

Reduced Risk of Damaged Goods During Unloading, Stocking, or Delivery

Good warehouse receiving practices are essential to reduce the risk of damaged goods during unloading, stocking, or delivery. Most obviously, this works because the fewer times an item is handled, the less likely it is to be damaged. A good warehouse receiving process will minimize the number of times an item is handled.

Additionally, a well-designed receiving area will also reduce the potential for damage. This is because only the right products enter the flow of materials. Even then, these materials go through a clear direction through the department and into storage rather than sitting in random areas where forklifts or other machinery may impact them.

proper documentation helps with real time inventory counts and the fulfillment process

Easier Tracking and Tracing of Orders

A proper warehouse receiving process captures all of the necessary information at the inbound stage. This information can then be used to track the product’s movement throughout the warehouse. This even works to the extent of knowing which truck or batch of products an individual customer’s delivery is tied to. Warehouse management software makes this easily accessible. A system such as this allows for easier tracing if there is a need to locate and recall products due to safety issues or customer complaints.

Improved Customer Service Satisfaction by Delivering On-Time Orders Accurately

Documenting and stocking goods in logical locations reduces the amount of time spent looking for them. When this happens, orders can go out faster than if warehouse pickers have to spend a lot of time looking for them. Additionally, if the location is always changing, then it causes even more confusion for workers. When a warehouse receiving process is well-defined and implemented, it helps eliminate this.

Lower Labor Costs Due to Efficient Use of Personnel Time

Because of everything already discussed, the total labor requirement in a system using a well-designed receiving area is less than one with no process at all. By adhering to logical processes and documentation, order fulfillment and other departments require less time to complete the same tasks. Furthermore, good receiving practices mean fewer issues down the line which also require labor time to sort out.

Improved Supplier Relations

Here’s a silly analogy: We have all heard about the fast-food customer who eats half their meal, then returns it complaining about a mistake on the order. The manager is right to wonder why they ate half the meal before they complained.

The same thing happens in the supply chain. Poorly defined or non-existent receiving processes push the discovery of issues down the warehouse process chain. This leads to a strained relationship with suppliers who need to know sooner than later when there is an issue. A good warehouse receiving procedure can alleviate many of these problems and ease the relationship with suppliers.

Minimizing Stockouts

If you run out of stock, customers might look for other places to buy what they want and leave bad reviews. This can be bad for any online brand. Another bad scenario is overstocking, which is when you have too much of something and it goes to waste.

If you have a good system for receiving inventory at your warehouse, it will help you avoid these kinds of stockouts. For example, you might catch a problem early on if the supplier does not deliver the right amount of items that were ordered.

Better Inventory Capacity

Streamlining your warehouse receiving process can improve the cost-efficiency and productivity of your inventory system. This is because everything has its place, and time is spent on the front end to ensure goods store according to the most efficient methods possible.

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Tips for Optimizing Your Warehouse Receiving Process

Warehouse receiving is a critical process for any business that relies on warehousing, yet it can be overwhelming to try and figure out how to optimize the process. Worse, it may cause a management team to just not even implement one in the first place. To help you, here are some tips to optimize your warehouse receiving process:

Utilize Automation

Applying warehouse automation to the receiving process helps streamline the operation and reduce manual errors. This can be done through an automated inventory management system or warehouse management system that tracks when shipments arrive, records data on incoming items, and assigns them to their appropriate spots in the warehouse.

Implement Slotting

Warehouse slotting is the process for establishing a logical methodology for storing inventory. Rather than randomly placing inventory, managers optimize their storage by following a clear guideline for pallet locations based on frequency of use, size, or weight.

Streamline Documentation

Make sure that the paperwork associated with warehouse receiving is kept to a minimum. This includes creating digital documents that are easy to access and utilize. One tip is to perform all documentation as early as possible. Even (to the extent possible) before the materials are unloaded from the truck.

Train Your Staff

The success of any warehouse receiving process depends largely on the staff assigned to it. Ensure they have the necessary training and resources to carry out their tasks efficiently and accurately.

Implement Quality Control Measures

Put in place quality control measures to quickly detect any discrepancies between ordered and received items, or other issues with the goods. This will help reduce the number of returns or losses due to inaccurate shipments.

Utilize Technology

Use technology such as barcode scanners, RFID systems, and other digital inventory tracking systems to help keep track of the goods and ensure accuracy.

More Best Practices for Your Receiving Process

To achieve efficient warehouse receiving operations and reduce costs associated with lost or damaged items due to improper handling or storage, it is important to follow certain best practices for quality control. These include:

  • Develop a system for reporting accidents or injuries
  • Get feedback and suggestions on processes from staff
  • Conduct regular reviews of staff training and procedures
  • Invest in reliable equipment and materials
  • Keep up with maintenance and fix safety hazards
  • Monitor inventory levels closely for discrepancies or issues
  • Inspect inbound goods as early as possible

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