Gavin Clark, Commercial Director for SaaS warehouse management system provider Snapfulfil says: "Companies often think their picking operation is efficient provided all the products are despatched on time and customers are happy. However many picking processes in warehouses across the US / UK could benefit from a reorganisation. Here are a Top Ten Tips to improve your warehouse system and operation. Apologies if some of them seem obvious, but hopefully some, if not all, will be of benefit".
1. Profile your orders
Your most popular SKUs are likely to be subject to seasonal fluctuations / peaks and troughs, so re-structure your warehouse management system to reflect your business model, and review the warehouse management system at least once a year. This will ensure the most popular SKUs are in the most accessible location, reducing wasted man hours by your order pickers travelling to far flung corners of the warehouse.
2. Analyse your current picking methodology
Ensure your picking methodology suits your company’s business model. Selecting the best approach, whether single order, multi order, batch picking with a single picker, or zone picking, is key for optimising performance and productivity in the warehouse system.
3. Use warehouse management system software to sequence orders
Sequencing your orders by pick path and batching together single lines, same zone orders saves time in the warehouse. Warehouse management system software will allow you to organise the workflow and optimise sequence performance, to maximise warehouse efficiency.
4. Create a warehouse within a warehouse
You can make significant efficiency improvements by grouping together the 20% of your SKUs that form 80% of your orders. This reduces journey time for your pickers and projected across a whole year can amount to hundreds of man hours saved. Ensure the 80-20 zone is designed in such a way to allow high volume activity i.e. wider aisles or maybe a one way system.
5. Assess your warehouse storage equipment to ensure proper application
The slow-moving items in the warehouse can be put in bin shelving and fast-moving items in a box / pallet flow, which will streamline your warehouse management system by improving storage density and picker productivity.
6. Create "wheelhouse" zones in your picking area
You can increase picking productivity and improve the health and safety culture of your warehouse environment by positioning your fastest-moving SKUs in the waist-to-shoulder or "wheelhouse" area of your racking.
7. Designate only two or three standard shipping boxes
By restricting your warehouse operation to two or three box sizes to choose from, it will speed up the picking process. Minimising the range of box sizes will also optimise freight / transportation expenses and packaging costs.
8. Consider automating the warehouse management system
Order pickers spend about 60% of their time walking moving / transferring product around the warehouse. Consider an automated solution, such as conveyer belts or trolleys to reduce travel time. Multi-level pick towers also save travel time.
9. Look at the different warehouse management system technology options
There are a whole host of options to increase efficiency in the warehouse operation i.e. bar codes, radio frequency, pick-to-label, pick-to-light, and voice-activated technologies. These technologies are designed to provide different levels of increased picking productivity and improved accuracy.
10. Consider the option of SaaS warehouse management system software
If you are going to fully automate your warehouse function then it is worth taking the time and trouble to look at SaaS ( Software as a Service ) warehouse management system software. A managed service will offer the business a double bonus of not only cost saving through improved efficiency and accuracy in the picking process, but a further benefit of helping cash flow through monthly instalment payments. Some warehouse management system software providers also offer a "No Capex" model.