Book Review: Warehouse Management

Warehouse Management: A Complete Guide to Improving Efficiency and Minimizing Costs in the Modern Warehouse, 2nd Edition (Kogan Page, 2014), by warehouse management and logistics specialist Gwynne Richards, is a comprehensive guide to all considerations for managers looking to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of their warehouse operations. In fact, that title does not do the book justice, and “Complete” is a term not to be brushed over in this case. A Guide to Modern Warehouse Safety, Automation, Sustainability, Outsourcing, Systems, Picking, Equipment, and Performance Management Strategy is more accurate but not concise or catchy enough.

In addition to covering a dizzying array of warehouse management topics in incredible detail, Richards has included well over 100 elaborative figures and tables in the book. In the introduction, he points out that the second edition (the first was published in 2011) includes more case studies as well as more photographs and links to informational videos.

Richards leaned on the expertise of impressive contributors, including Kate Vitasek, author of the Vested Outsourcing series of books. If you haven’t read any of them yet, Warehouse Management provides exposure to the basic tenets of Vitasek’s outsourcing philosophy in the chapter on outsourcing.

For being a career specialist in warehouse management, Richards is also clearly well steeped in general business practices and strategy. Most of my notes and underlines in my copy of the book apply to any company department or function looking to improve its contribution to corporate competitive advantage. For example, in the book’s introduction, Richards states, “These advances in technology are likely to lead to a significant reduction in staff and improved efficiency. This comes at a cost, however.” He then writes, “Automating a bad process might make it quicker but certainly doesn’t make it more efficient.”

For professionals trying to tie their roles in logistics, procurement, or purchasing to the larger supply chain, the warehouse becomes a physical epicenter for their efforts as well as an opportunity to observe the evidence of trends and changes in management philosophy. “Greater collaboration within the supply chain both vertically and horizontally will lead to greater consolidation and an increase in shared-user operations,” Richards writes. There is nothing conceptual about greater supply collaboration in the warehouse. Well-intended strategies either work or create bottlenecks that result in operational headaches and higher costs.

Warehouse Management manages to address the full spectrum of knowledge needs on the topic, covering everything from the role of the warehouse and detailed information on picking, to chapters on sustainability, outsourcing, performance management, and the warehouse of the future.

At over 400 pages, you are unlikely to get through everything Warehouse Management has to offer in one airplane ride, but you are quite likely to wear out and dog-ear plenty of pages that address the challenges and opportunities arising daily in the modern warehouse.