Walking is the biggest cost driver when it comes to warehouse operations and a big detriment to picking efficiency. Hence, this why most warehouse automated systems working on presenting the “pick face” to the picker in an automated manner. Think Horizontal Carousels or VLM (Vertical Lift Magazines).
What happens when you cannot afford to invest in sophisticated automation?
Almost no consideration either when ordering or manufacturing is included to optimize your pick-face. A box of stuff is purchased, received and simply placed on a shelf in your warehouse or stores. Similar to pallets of goods arriving from the manufacturing floor. I am certain that it will be neatly labelled and cataloged and look organized in the shelf.
Now let us look at efficiency of picking these items as required and maybe we need to look at our stocking strategy differently.
For an average human 2 steps covers a distance of 5 feet and consumes .6 seconds … not much time until you do it thousands of times. Just imagine how many times does a picker walk past a location every hour, or day or week, now it starts to quickly add up.
If you are not a high-volume picking warehouse, we are going to shelve any warehouse automated solutions for now, but we can still improve efficiency and increase through-put.
FOR EACH PICK
We have already discussed that you segregate your “Each Picks” into your shelving. Consider creating the shelves into picking pods and then make sure you pack directly into boxes. Replenishment of Each Pick would occur from the case pick area of the warehouse.
You need to manage your Pick face always keeping in mind about how you can reduce walk … always.
Segregate your warehouse into sectors and potentially use a split pick-list methodology. Suggested sectors:
New Releases/Promotional Items
Runners = (ship daily or weekly)
Repeaters = (ship monthly)
Strangers = (could be seasonal products or random shipments perhaps quarterly)
Since we are focused on walk reduction design your pick face accordingly. Typically, people just place received product into a stock location with no real consideration towards how many days of supply it will provide. Using your EAU define how many days' supply you wish to stock at your pick face and then you can either create a planogram or slot accordingly. For example, we want 1 week supply of Runners, slot accordingly and then use a back-stock replenishment trigger (kanban) to instigate replenishment. Typically, you should only have around 30% of the replenishment triggers activated on a weekly basis. You should do your replenishments first thing in the morning, typically to coincide with your cycle counting.
Alternatively, should you be lucky to have a PFEP (Plan for Every Part) calculating the width and depth of your pick-face will be much easier and most likely developing your slotting Planogram.
Caution, when slotting your pick-face it may seem natural to stock in part number sequence but that could be dangerous. The sequential part numbers could look very similar so the potential of miss-picks or cross-contamination could significantly increase, so spread those parts that look similar into different slots far apart. Let your routing algorithm that prints your pick-list optimize the picking sequence.
Compress, compress, compress your pick face. We typically see a 20% reduction in walk requirements for order picking if you diligently follow this.
Consider building a pick face stocking matrix …
Runners = 1 week at pick face
Repeaters = 1 month
Strangers = 1 quarter
Once you have sectored your warehouse you can use a split pick list approach (how it is printed and executed, but not necessarily visible to customer). Segregate the sectors with an empty line on your picklist. Have a person pick all of the strangers (multi-orders 4-6 concurrently) and push picking cart into Repeater Zone and the pick those items and finally Runners. It will look like a pick wave flowing through your warehouse.