Warehouse Process Improvement:
Order Picking, Shipping, Receiving, Putaway, Replenishment.
Process improvement is a somewhat broad topic and is at the core of all the services I provide. What I offer is cross-functional operations knowledge that includes extensive knowledge of inventory management, physical warehousing and material handling, as well as information systems set-up and transaction processing.
By taking a multidimensional approach to process improvement, I work to ensure that recommendations take into account customer service, productivity, quality, accuracy, safety, flexibility, capacity, and financial objectives of the organization. Examples of areas that I would evaluate would include shipping, receiving, order picking, order packing, stocking (putaway), feeding production, pick location replenishment, cycle counting, slotting, transaction processing, information flows, multi-plant processing, and off-site storage.
More detail on warehouse process improvement services.
Order picking rightfully gets a lot of attention because significant labor often goes into this process and it’s the warehouse process that most directly affects your customers. Though I’ve done a fair amount of work with full-pallet picking and case picking, my specialty is undoubtedly piece-picking (pick-pack operations). Due to numerous methods and technologies available for order picking, determining the most effective means of picking orders is not a simple process. It’s not just methods (single order picking, multi-order picking, wave picking, etc.), but also equipment (picking carts, order picker trucks, walkie and rider pallet trucks, carrousels, etc.) and technology (paper-based, pick labels, hand-held bar code devices, voice, pick-to-light). And even once you get the right combination selected for your operation, there are many details of the process that still need to be worked out.
Analyzing order and item data is critical in determining how to best pick orders. I have significant experience doing this type of analysis and can show you how to use your data to more effectively run your operation. My approach towards order picking is also a bit unique (at least among consultants) in that I typically start with trying to develop the most effective least costly method of picking orders. There is often a lot that can be done inexpensively to improve your order picking process. So why invest in expensive equipment and technology if you don’t need to. This isn’t to say that I won’t recommend this type of equipment and technology, but rather, I want to make sure you are getting the most from your money. And while expensive investments in equipment and technology may look like they pay for themselves when compared to your current operation, I compare these investments with the best means of operating without them—and often that makes a big difference.
Packing and shipping.
While order packing and shipping doesn’t typically get the same amount of attention as order picking, these are still critical processes to any fulfillment or distribution operation. For piece picking (pick-pack operations), checking methods, packing methods, packing station layout, feed lines or lanes, and takeway lines or lanes, and postage manifesting stations, require adequate planning to ensure you are getting the most from your workforce and are able to meet quality, accuracy, and throughput requirements.
In case-pick or pallet-pick operations, the “packing” step is less involved or non-existent, but there are additional requirements for staging lanes and truck loading methods. Once again, some upfront planning can greatly improve your ability to process these types of orders.
Receiving and stocking (putaway).
The receiving and putaway processes rarely get the respect they deserve. While they don’t have the same obvious direct effect on customer orders as order picking and shipping, they are still very important processes in the warehouse. And while the various methods for receiving and putaway aren’t near as diverse as those for order picking, there are still numerous options that can help to add efficiency and accuracy to your receiving and putaway processes.
Depending on your specific operation, returns may be anything from a rare event to a significant part of daily processing. Returns processes are often the cause of inventory accuracy and quality problems , so getting them right is important. I can help you work through some options in handling returns both physically and transactionally.
Warehouse slotting involves determining the best place (slot) to store a specific quantity of a specific item, and is critically important in improving picking (and putaway) processes. See Warehouse Layouts and Slotting for more information on my services related to slotting.
With continually shrinking lot sizes and order sizes, warehouses and manufacturing plants have to focus more on movement and less on long-term storage. Material handling is not just an equipment decision, but also a process decision that takes into account the functionality and costs of material handling equipment and manual handling methods. Automation is sometimes (mistakenly) considered a goal of material handling operations, however, choosing the most effective level of automation for an operation requires balancing cost, flexibility, safety, and accuracy. In many cases, no automation is the most effective level of automation.
This service can work through E-consulting, though there may be some limitations.