It’s not unusual to find that in many supply chain operations the performance in the warehouse has a major bearing on the rest of the supply chain. So it is of paramount importance that your warehouse operates as efficiently as possible. It‘s common sense!
Efficiency in the warehouse begins with control – controlling goods in, putaways, stock movements, picking, replenishments and despatch. Any warehouse can of course be controlled by well-practised home grown methods such as paper delivery notes at the point of goods inwards, followed by more paper for putaways, paper pick notes, manual entry of stock on to a spreadsheet, a paper load plan for the despatch bay or goods outwards.
The problem with these old fashioned, so called “tried and trusted” methods is that they are all open to errors as they are all manually controlled by humans. They are often time consuming, expensive in terms of paper, and can cause a lot of unnecessary work as often the operative can be guilty of mis-picking items, and has to start the picking process again. This sometimes results in another team of warehouse operatives checking orders before despatch. Not the best advert for efficiency.
For an efficient, effective and ultimately economically controlled warehouse, it is recommended that a Warehouse Management System is put in place, preferably an RF Directed WMS system. RF WMS systems allow scanning at Goods in, Putaways, Picking , Replenishments, and the scanning of Loads on to transport at Despatch (Goods out). RF WMS Systems that include Warehouse Mapping/Slotting can shorten routes around the warehouse to match a logical pick sequence, send the right forklift truck with the right qualified driver to the nearest available pick/zone, can be task interleaved so that picking and replenishments are completed by the same operative at the same time. The system will not allow the wrong item to be picked, eliminating picking errors. Stock takes become a thing of the past as the system always knows how much stock is being held, and where it is. Time and labour are major savings resulting from increased efficiency, however an often overlooked efficiency gain results from forklifts taking logically sequenced routes around the warehouse, making fewer stops, gaining time, using less fuel, and less wear and tear on the truck itself; lengthening its “shelf” life.
Voice Picking Systems increase efficiency even further as operatives have both hands and eyes free for fine picking, and are not fumbling around with paper pick notes. Best suited to a fine pick or carton pick environment, in some cases Voice Warehouse Systems can also be used at Goods in, for Replenishments and Despatch, eliminating the need for scanning, or used in a combination with scanning for maximum efficiency.
Ultimate efficiency however comes from a fully integrated Supply Chain where your Warehouse System is interfaced to your eCommerce, ERP system, Sales Order Processing and Transport Management System giving as much control and as least human intervention as possible. The management team gains an overview of their complete operation, only makes or orders stock when needed, and ships correctly fulfilled orders to their customers. This results in achievable service levels, customer satisfaction and enhanced word of mouth reputation.
It is without doubt that in this frantic world we now find ourselves living in, with consumers having the “I want this today” mentality, technology plays a vital role in delivering control, and making Technology Triple E happen: Efficient, Effective and Economic systems for the benefit of all.
Author: Linda Rodway
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