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Quick Guide to Order Picking Methods & Productivity

February 12, 2014

Order picking from rack

When you are working on an order picking strategy, knowing the metrics for picking rates may be helpful. Labor productivity is the key to any warehousing or order picking operation, since labor tends to be the largest single cost factor in these operations. It’s critical to understand production rates for processes that absorb labor hours, energy, money, and time.

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Tactics to Reduce Small Parts Picking Errors

December 3, 2013

small parts picking line with Unex carton flow racking

Small parts are more difficult to count, measure and handle. They tend to cause more errors than case picking or larger component orders. If you are having errors, you should try to define the causes — and the suspects abound. Can you find out what’s causing the errors? Once you do, what happens next? Here are some common causes and solutions to this issue.

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Industrial Automation and The Flexibility Problem

August 22, 2013

as-rs-system

Earlier this year, Food Logistics published a provocative article, “Automate or Die”.  Do you have to automate? Of course not. But it brings to mind a good question: where is the point of acceptable ROI for automation projects? When does it make sense? What aspects are potential pitfalls?

We’re  inside warehouses, distribution centers, commercial operations, and manufacturing facilities every day. We don’t see full scale automation in all — or even most — of these operations. We’ve even seen some companies who have automated go back to picking with carts. We’ve seen others thrive due to their automated projects. The point is, you certainly won’t “die” if you don’t automate. But that doesn’t mean that you should not automate some or all aspects of your operation.

In some cases, we try to make the case that automation isn’t needed. In others, we try to help these companies understand when a capital investment in automation equipment and/or software will save money, increase productivity, reduce problems, and improve their business. It’s not  something that you can do from a distance.  It requires a command of the facts on the ground, in the servers, and throughout the supply chain.

So, the question is, why automate? 

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Top 12 Distribution Center Metrics

June 29, 2013

Busy distribution operationAs it has every year for the last decade, DCVelocity Magazine has surveyed its readers and members of WERC to  find what industry professionals believe are the top metrics for a successful operation. This is instructive for most operations, and worth taking a look.  The full survey can be found here.

The top 12 metrics, and (category)

  1. On time shipments (to customers)
  2. Internal order cycle time (customer)
  3. Dock-to-stock cycle time, in hours (inbound operation)
  4. Total cycle time (customer)
  5. Order picking accuracy (quality)
  6. Lines picked and shipped per hour (outbound operations)
  7. Lines received and put away per hour (inbound operations)
  8. Percentage of supplier orders received damage free (inbound operations)
  9. Average warehouse capacity used (capacity)
  10. Order fill rate (outbound operations)
  11. Percentage of supplier orders received with correct documentation (inbound operations)
  12. Peak warehouse capacity used (Capacity)

Not everything on this list necessarily applies to every operation, but they are all worth some reflection. It’s worthwhile to have the questions posed, as we all fall victim to the “forest and trees” syndrome. 

Related: How to benchmark your warehouse operation

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Merging Warehouse Operations: The Pitfalls

May 28, 2013

merging an industrial operation is difficult

Merging two formerly separate industrial operations can be more difficult, expensive, and time consuming than creating an entirely new plant. After all, even in the best of scenarios, it’s almost always easier to start with a blank slate. But in these days of consolidations and cost cutting, this can happen to almost any company.  Planning and open communications is the key in general, but there are specific issues you should be aware of.

What are some pitfalls, and how can you avoid them?

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Ideas for Cost Savings in E-Commerce Warehouses

December 6, 2012

Jay Moris has an excellent article in this month’s Inbound Logistics on ways you can cut expenses in your e-commerce operation. Some quick pointers:

  • Increase customer satisfaction. Moris explains that right-sizing your packages can reduce carton size and ensure customers receive the right package at the right time.
  • Reduce packaging costs. By using cartonization strategies, you can reduce parcel sizes – and by extension, shipping and packaging costs.
  • Decrease labor and increase throughput. By optimizing its sortation systems, one retailer cut 62 cents off every package shipped.
  • Reduce freight, sortation, and shipping costs. Reducing carton dimensions does all of these things in a world where just a single sheet of paper is capable of changing a carton’s shipping class.

We live in a world where weight and dimensional measurement of packages is becoming faster and easier to gauge. Shippers can and will be able to charge more for smaller and smaller differences, so every bit of the process you can automate and optimize, the better. There are more tips (and plenty more detail) at the article – check it out.

Posted in Automation, Docks & Shipping, Material Handling, Order Picking & Fulfillment, Supply Chain, Warehousing| No Comments »

Factors for Distribution Center Sustainability

July 18, 2012

distribution center conveyor system

At Modex 2012, Hytrol Conveyor’s Boyce Bonham sat down with DCVelocity to discuss distribution center sustainability. We’ve linked the video below, which is worth a few moments of your time. How do initiatives to work greener, smarter, and better affect warehouses and distribution operations? Not surprisingly, these initiatives often save money, at least over the long term.

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10 Ways to Reduce Inventory Errors Due to Order Picking

June 25, 2012

checking inventory at a warehouse

“We keep making mistakes”

Mistakes happen, but in order picking operations, reducing the number of errors is critically important. Order picking is the last touch point between you and your customers. When it comes to customer relations, it’s more important than any public relations, press releases, or websites your company can create. No matter if you’re shipping direct to consumers or to another processing operation, customers are directly impacted. Not only is the customer with the incorrect order harmed, so are potential future customers who suffer because of inventory errors delaying orders.

What are some ways you can increase inventory accuracy related to order picking?

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Posted in Automation, Industrial Shelving, Material Handling, Order Picking & Fulfillment, Supply Chain, Warehousing| No Comments »

Protecting Order Pickers in Rack Aisles

June 22, 2012

Picking orders in a pallet rack aisle

“We need help before someone gets hurt”

The situation is familiar: in a busy warehouse or distribution center, you can have dozens or hundreds of order pickers that walk the floor with carts and clipboards or scan guns to pick orders for shipping. These are usually focused people who have the job in mind. After all, you’ve probably told them how speed is of the essence – which it is. The problem is that in many or most operations, there are also powered industrial trucks (forklifts, walkies, electric powered jacks) operating in the same space, often in cramped pallet rack aisles. And guess what? They’re busy and focused on the job, too.

And these two groups are working the same space, at the same time. It’s almost assured that if you have this situation, you’ve had accidents, or near-accidents — which you may never hear of, until the near-miss isn’t a miss at all.

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DCVelocity: The Top 12 Distribution Center Metrics

May 22, 2012

a picking operation with conveyors and carousels

This month’s DCVelocity magazine featured its annual report on DC Metrics – a great tool for benchmarking your warehouse operations. The survey was issued to the magazine’s readers and members of WERC, by researchers from Georgia Southern University and a consulting firm partner.
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