10 ways to reduce product damage in your warehouse

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Product damage can be hard to weed out — on the one hand, you want to move products quickly. On the other, you need to ensure your team handles products carefully. To add a whole other layer of complexity, you also need to account for equipment maintenance and — heaven forbid — failure. 

In this article, we share ten ways to reduce product damage in your warehouse — from how to optimize your layouts to fostering a culture of accountability. Let’s dive in. 

Optimize your storage layout 

    A well-designed warehouse layout is the difference between smooth operations with minimal product damage and absolute anarchy. The human mind is hardwired to build walking and working patterns — how we turn, which foot dominates, and even how our eyes wander. If your storage layout is designed with these considerations, you minimize mishandling, collisions, and accidents. And, in turn, product damage. 

    Here are five tips to optimize your storage layouts, according to anthropometric and machinery standards: 

    • Design your warehouse layout to minimize sharp turns and obstacles. A smooth, streamlined path is easier to follow and doesn’t require an active mental presence. So, your employees can focus on what they’re transporting and where it goes. 
    • Use clear signage that denotes directions, zones, safety, and capacity.
    • Incorporate activity-specific lighting with optimum luminance for safety, working, and high bays. 
    • Weatherproof your warehouse to make your HVAC systems work more effectively and safekeep perishable goods for longer. 
    • Use modular storage systems to maximize your warehouse space as product requirements change.

    Standard aisle sizes

    General aisle widths

    • Standard Aisles: Typically 12-14 feet wide, designed for standard forklifts.
    • Narrow Aisles: Range from 8-10 feet wide, suitable for reach trucks or turret trucks.
    • Very Narrow Aisles (VNA): Usually 5-7 feet wide, requiring specialized equipment like wire-guided or rail-guided order pickers.

    Specific standards

    • Working Aisle Widths: Should be 0.90-1.20 meters.
    • Side Traffic Routes (Temporary Overlapping Use): 1.50-1.80 meters.
    • Main Traffic Routes (Transport and Two-Way Through Traffic): 2.10-3.30 meters.

     Passage widths for racks

    • Manual Operation: Minimum 0.75 meters.
    • Forklift Operation with Swiveling Forks: Forklift width + 2 x 0.50 meters.
    • Forklift Operation with Rigid Forks: Forklift + fork + 0.50 meters. 

    Add padding to high-activity areas

      Introduce protective padding and cushioning materials in high-impact areas such as turns and intersections. This extra layer ensures you’re shielding delicate items from impact during transit and storage.

      Here’s a guide to the padding materials you should be using: 

      IndustryKey Areas for PaddingPadding MaterialHigh Activity Area Padding
      ElectronicsStorage Racks, Shipping AreasAnti-Static Foam, Bubble WrapRubber Mats, Safety Barriers
      Food and BeverageStorage Coolers, Packing StationsInsulated Padding, Thermal WrapsNon-Slip Mats, Hygienic Barriers
      AutomotiveAssembly Lines, Storage ZonesFoam Inserts, Protective CoversShock Absorbing Mats, Reinforced Barriers
      PharmaceuticalsStorage Shelves, Transport CartsGel Packs, Foam PaddingAnti-Microbial Mats, Sterile Barriers
      FurnitureLoading Docks, Storage SectionsCorner Protectors, Cushioning FoamHeavy-Duty Mats, Impact Barriers

      Choose packaging carefully

        Packaging can help you prevent damage at a molecular level — metaphorically speaking. When you package goods in suitable materials, they can often survive being thrown around, tossed aside, and even dropped from heights. 

        When you choose the wrong packaging for bulk discounts or to create uniformity, you might compromise the safety of your products. For example, while corrugated cardboard boxes are handy, they’re unsuitable for high-end electronics because they lack the anti-static properties necessary to prevent electrostatic discharge. 

        Here’s a guide to help you check if you’re using the right packaging materials:

        Commonly Misused PackagingWhy It’s InappropriateRecommended PackagingHow it prevents damage
        Corrugated cardboard boxesLack of anti-static properties for sensitive electronicsAnti-static foam or bubble wrap inside anti-static bagsPrevents electrostatic discharge, protecting sensitive components
        Polyethylene bagsNot sturdy or protective enough for heavy itemsHeavy-duty polyethylene or polypropylene containersOffers greater strength and protection for heavy items
        Shrink wrapInadequate cushioning for fragile itemsBubble wrap or foam wrapProvides cushioning and shock absorption for fragile items
        Paper envelopesInsufficient protection for small, delicate itemsPadded envelopes or small boxes with foam insertsAdds cushioning to protect delicate items from damage
        Standard plastic bagsNo barrier against contaminants for sterile itemsSterilized medical-grade packagingMaintains sterility and provides a barrier against contaminants
        Regular styrofoam peanutsCan create static and do not secure items wellBiodegradable packing peanuts or air pillowsEco-friendly, reduces static, and better secures items

        Regularly maintain your equipment 

          Regular upkeep of equipment prevents the minor issues that can lead to catastrophic accidents — ensuring both the safety of your team and the integrity of your products. Imagine your machinery running like clockwork, minimizing downtime and maximizing productivity — all thanks to diligent maintenance routines.

          List of common warehouse equipment that needs frequent checks:

          EquipmentFrequency of ChecksKey Checkpoints
          ForkliftsDailyBrakes, tires, hydraulic systems, lights, and safety features
          Pallet JacksWeeklyWheels, forks, hydraulic lift mechanisms, and handles
          Conveyor SystemsMonthlyBelts, rollers, motors, and sensors
          Shelving/RackingQuarterlyStructural integrity, load limits, and safety clips
          Automated Storage and Retrieval Systems (AS/RS)MonthlySensors, software updates, mechanical parts, and safety barriers
          Safety EquipmentMonthlyFire extinguishers, emergency exits, first aid kits, and eyewash stations
          Packaging MachinesWeeklySeals, cutting mechanisms, and electrical components
          Scissor LiftsDailyHydraulics, safety rails, and control panels
          Dock LevelersWeeklyHydraulic systems, platform integrity, and safety features
          HVAC SystemsQuarterlyFilters, ductwork, and thermostats

          Train staff to be gentle and precise

            A well-trained team is the backbone of an efficient warehouse operation — controlling movement, creating flexibility, and facilitating coordination. But when your employees are untrained, every vertebrae is a potential hazardous zone. 

            Invest time and resources in training your team. Here’s a breakdown of the essentials:

            Safety protocols

            To understand the correct use of equipment, recognize potential hazards, and practice emergency procedures. For example, how to proceed in a blackout. 

            Regular drills and refreshers keep safety top of mind, ensuring everyone can handle unexpected situations without panicking.

            Proper handling techniques

            From the right way to lift and move items to the use of tools like pallet jacks and forklifts. Sometimes accidents happen because staff don’t know how to handle a package properly. Proper handling techniques keep your packages — and employees — safe.

            Operational procedures

            To standardize your procedures for tasks such as packing, shipping, and receiving to make sure everyone follows a consistent method. 

            Continuous improvement

            To create a culture of continuous learning and improvement. Regular feedback sessions, performance reviews, and additional training opportunities help keep skills sharp and morale high. 

            Let’s look at a breakdown of how training may seem like a cost-heavy endeavor but lead to significant savings by reducing product damage. 

            Cost CategoryAmount (USD)Depends On
            Upfront CostsTraining program development$1,000 – $10,000Complexity, content depth
            Training facilities and equipment$2,000 – $5,000Facility size, equipment quality
            Trainer fees$1,000 – $5,000 per dayTrainer expertise, duration
            Employee time$7,680 – $15,360Number of employees, training duration
            Total: $11,680 – $35,360
            Saved Costs Over Time (Annual)Reduced error rates$5,000 – $15,000Error rate reduction, product value
            Increased efficiency and productivity$10,000 – $30,000Productivity increase, operational scale
            Lower turnover rates$10,000 – $75,000Turnover rate, cost per new hire
            Enhanced safety$5,000 – $20,000Accident reduction, healthcare costs
            Improved customer satisfaction$5,000 – $20,000Customer retention, return reduction
            Total:$35,000 – $160,000

            Improve stock-handling techniques

              Stock-handling is not just about moving items from Point A to Point B; it’s about balancing care, precision, and safety.

              Let’s dive into some essential handling techniques for various types of products:

              Item TypeSpecific Instructions
              Fragile Items– Use padded gloves- Handle each item individually with both hands- Place items in padded containers or boxes- Avoid stacking without proper separators
              Electronics– Use anti-static gloves and wristbands- Place in anti-static bags before transporting- Avoid exposure to moisture- Store on shelves with padded surfaces
              Heavy items– Utilize forklifts with appropriate weight capacity- Secure items with straps or shrinkwrap- Ensure load is balanced before lifting- Use spotters to guide when maneuvering large items
              Odd-shaped items– Use custom crating or padding- Lift from the strongest points of the item- Use furniture dollies or moving straps- Secure items to prevent shifting during transport
              Bulk items– Stack items on pallets in a stable pattern- Wrap pallets with shrink wrap or strapping- Avoid overloading pallets beyond the recommended height- Use pallet jacks or forklifts for movement
              Perishable items– Store in climate-controlled areas- Use insulated containers for transport- Monitor temperature regularly- Rotate stock to use older items first
              Chemicals– Use chemical-resistant gloves and safety goggles- Store in designated areas with proper ventilation- Use spill containment pallets- Follow specific handling and disposal guidelines


                Automating processes is like having a tireless perfectionist on your team — every task is executed flawlessly, notifications aren’t riddled with ambiguities, and time-critical elements are handled instantaneously. This greatly reduces the product damage caused by delays and forgetfulness. 

                For example, say you have a batch of gourmet Greek yogurts that go bad within an hour when not stored at exactly 2 degree celsius but your warehouse experiences frequent power outages. You can use a combination of automated systems to ensure that the generator always powers the refrigerator that stores the yogurt and that it auto-sets to 10 degrees. 

                Here’s a list of commonly used storage systems:

                • Automated Storage and Retrieval Systems (AS/RS): These systems automatically place and retrieve items from defined storage locations. Examples include vertical lift modules and horizontal carousels.
                • Automated Guided Vehicles (AGVs): These vehicles transport materials within the warehouse without human intervention, following predefined paths. Some examples are robotic forklifts and pallet movers.
                • Conveyor Systems: Automated conveyors transport goods throughout the warehouse, reducing manual handling and improving efficiency. These can include belt conveyors, roller conveyors, and overhead conveyors.
                • Automated Sortation Systems: Systems that automatically sort items based on size, weight, or other criteria, directing them to the correct locations. Examples include tilt-tray sorters and cross-belt sorters.

                Use inventory management software

                  Inventory management software cuts manual stock-taking and inaccuracies in half. And with it — product damage. 

                  An effective inventory management system must have six core capabilities:

                  1. Real-time visibility: The platform should offer a live look into stock levels and locations to ensure items are always stored and handled correctly. 
                  1. Automated alerts: The software should flag items needing special handling or storage conditions. Whether it’s perishable goods or hazardous materials, proactive notifications are your first line of defense in preventing product damage. 
                  1. Accurate record-keeping: Detailed records of each item’s history, handling instructions, and storage requirements are maintained. Workers have all the info they need at their fingertips — reducing the risk of mishandling.
                  1. Optimized storage options: By analyzing inventory data, the software suggests optimal storage configurations and pathways. This cuts down on congestion and accidents and saves you from creating manual layouts or a trip to your architect’s office. 
                  1. Enhanced training: Integrating with training modules, the software provides on-the-spot guidance and reminders about proper handling techniques. Not having to stop to remember details or cross-check with colleagues helps your employees reduce fatigue and the irresponsible material handling that follows. 
                  1. Proactive maintenance: The inventory management software tracks equipment usage and schedule maintenance to prevent breakdowns that could lead to product damage.

                  (Psst: Linnworks does all of this and more. Check it out here.) 

                  Foster a culture of accountability

                    When your employees feel responsible for their actions, they bring their best selves to work. This means less carelessness and neglect and more mental alertness. Read: minimized mishaps and product damage. 

                    Here are a few ways to foster this culture:

                    • Set clear expectations: Clearly define roles and responsibilities. Make sure every team member understands what is expected of them in terms of handling and storing products.
                    • Encourage reporting: Create a non-punitive environment where employees feel comfortable reporting potential issues or unsafe practices. For example, say an employee reports a recurring issue with the warehouse’s heating system causing perishable goods to spoil. If they are reprimanded for “complaining,” it would discourage reporting and increase product damage. 
                    • Recognize good practices: Acknowledge and reward employees who consistently follow best practices and contribute to a safe working environment.
                    • Implement peer reviews: Encourage peer reviews and feedback sessions. Employees often value the opinions of their colleagues and can learn from each other’s experiences.
                    • Lead by example: Management should model the behavior they expect from their team. Demonstrating a commitment to safety and accountability inspires employees to follow suit.

                    Pro Tip: Use performance metrics, like incident reports or compliance rates, to track adherence to safety practices and handling protocols. Sharing these metrics with your team can motivate them to maintain high standards and self-check. 

                    Conduct regular audits

                      Regular audits help you identify risky areas in warehouse operations that could lead to product damage. Systematically examine your processes to pinpoint weaknesses and implement corrective measures. Here’s how:

                      • Identify risky areas: Audits help uncover problematic zones where product damage is most likely to occur, such as crowded storage areas or high-traffic paths. 
                      • Assess compliance: Ensure your staff follows all safety protocols and handling procedures correctly. This can prevent damage due to human error or non-compliance with best practices.
                      • Benchmark performance: Use audits to measure current performance against industry standards or past performance. This helps in understanding where improvements are needed.

                      How to conduct effective audits:

                      • Schedule them regularly.
                      • Use checklists for all aspects of warehouse operations, from storage to handling.
                      • Take immediate corrective actions and continuously monitor how effective they are. 

                      Pro Tip: Involve staff in the audit process. Their firsthand insights can be invaluable in identifying issues and developing practical solutions. For example, a staff member may point out that a particular area is prone to pallet stacking errors before the inventory management system’s heatmap picks it up.

                      Optimize your warehouse with Linnworks

                      Whether it’s automation, audits, or even adding padding — you need to know what your inventory comprises and where it’s located. 

                      Linnworks gives you visibility into your warehouse without having to step foot in it. You can check inventory levels, monitor equipment health, and optimize storage configurations from your desktop — and eventually reduce product damage in your warehouse. 

                      Want to see for yourself? Sign up for a demo

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