Effective Warehouse Reporting: The Key to Competitive Warehousing
Data is like a gold mine and finding the valuable nuggets of information in the copious amounts of data available to warehouse operators is essential to running a successful business. But sometimes, it can be challenging to differentiate the valuable data nuggets from the ones that look impressive on a page. Effective warehouse reporting can only be accomplished by setting operational goals and matching the available data to those goals.
In this guide, we’ll be looking at:
- The Importance of Valuable and Actionable Warehouse Reports
- Reporting Pillars of an Effective Reporting Program
- How to Use Data to Produce Valuable and Actionable Reports
- Three Quick Takeaways for Effective Warehouse Reporting
The Importance of Valuable and Actionable Warehouse Reports
With the rise of ecommerce, growing global marketplaces, and the increase in omnichannel shopping capabilities, the way your warehouse operates and the types of clients you serve have likely changed in the past decade. Using warehouse management software, you’ve probably noticed the various reporting functions available. Still, you may not know their meaning or how to use them to optimize your operations and improve your decision-making processes.
Reporting Pillars of an Effective Reporting Program
Where should you start if you’re thinking about establishing a reporting program within your operations? The foundation of a valuable reporting program contains three pillars:
- A rich data source
- A strong reporting tool
- A robust reporting strategy
The sweet spot of these pillars allows you to have accurate, coherent, and actionable data. It will enable you to create an effective warehouse reporting system that helps you make the critical decisions required to improve processes, reduce costs, and better serve your clients and customers.
How to Use Data to Produce Valuable and Actionable Reports
You can’t decide where to go if you don’t know where you’ve been. The same goes for warehouse management and warehouse reporting. Understanding weak spots in your operations and how those weak spots were created starts with historical data. Figuring out how to fix those weak spots starts with goal setting. And successful warehouse reporting always starts with solid and relevant goals. Once goals are set, you can use available data to create a realistic and achievable action plan and reports that are relevant and useful for your end users.
Setting Your Reporting Goals
The first step to establishing effective warehouse reporting is to set your business and operational goals. Goals should follow the SMART formula: Specific, Measurable, Actionable, Realistic, and Timely. You’ll also need to think about the following:
- Who are you reporting to, and what do they need to do with the data? Think about who needs specific data to be successful in their role, the types of decisions people need to make based on your reporting, and the problems, risks, and opportunities your audiences face.
- What are your reporting categories? Consider tactical information you need, such as daily job assignments. You’ll also need to consider recurring reports, such as monthly billing reports for a client, and strategic reports (quarterly or yearly) that look at questions such as the need to add another packing station.
When setting goals, you’ll also need to identify your sources of data, which could be coming from your warehouse software or other digital tools or created through manual processes:
- Scope: What kind of data do you have access to, and what is the level of detail available? (e.g., time stamps, a record of updates, who made a change.)
- Reliability: How accurate is your data, and can you trust it to make crucial decisions? (Is it manually entered or calculated by the software?)
- Accessibility: How easy is the data to read, access, and manipulate? (How often can you access it? Can you access it in real-time?)
Turning Info into Action
Once you have an idea of your data types and audiences, you’ll need to think about the reports you want to create. No matter what direction you take, the best practice is to start simple: only provide the information you need in a way that is easy for your audience to consume and understand.
- Your reports should be action-based. A report isn’t valuable if you can’t decide to take action based on the information. Don’t build reports just because they are interesting or because you can. A good practice is to name your reports based on the intended action or outcome.
- Consider the design of your reports. Tables and simple visuals are best when starting out. Once you’ve created the first draft, run it by your audience and ask if it’s legible, provides valuable information, and is easy to understand.
- Start creating a report collection and group them by your audience or function. You should be able to summarize the available actions from your collection, identify missing data, and create a plan to capture or collect data needed for missing actions.
Effective Data Delivery
The type of report you’re creating will suit a specific presentation style:
- Tactical reports (e.g., job assignments to get the work done) must be simple, consumed quickly, and include one to two measurable metrics.
- Recurring reports (e.g., administrative or billing data) are almost exclusively tables of flattened data.
- Strategic reports (decisions about your operations) should visually demonstrate trends.
Finally, you’ll need to determine your delivery schedule and whether or not they need to be created on a push or pull basis.
- Tactical reports are generally needed in real-time, pulled, and quickly refreshed.
- Recurring reports are generally scheduled, pushed, and require auditing (push them out on a schedule and have templates).
- Strategic reports are generally ad-hoc, pushed, and require human presentation (can be very complex, merge several data sets, templates work to start pulling data but can be modified to meet your needs).
Continuous Improvement in Reporting is Key
When reports become useless or redundant, it’s time to reevaluate or get rid of some of your reports:
- Document intended use cases and actions to keep your collection clean.
- Build a process to update/remove/add reports as business needs change.
- Maintain a plan for capturing desired missing data.
Three Quick Takeaways for Effective Warehouse Reporting
- Reporting can be a massive time-sink. Avoid this by outlining a reporting strategy before investing in a tool or creating reports.
- Reports that don’t prompt action are generally useless. Define your reports around problems, not what you have available/not what you can do.
- Be deliberate and intentional when defining expectations for presentation/schedule. Don’t use charts when tables are better.
Warehouse management is full of nuances and is becoming increasingly competitive as consumers shift towards global online marketplaces. Using warehouse software, operators can easily set up systems for effective warehouse reporting to improve and streamline operations, reduce costs, and to better meet customer and client needs.