by Gary Forger

The value of labor

Interviews with several experts on conventional warehousing made it clear that you can improve processes without a complete hardware and software transformation.

Key concepts here range from slotting to clean data and reduction in travel time. Labor management is not to be overlooked either. And, yes, technology is part of this evolution, ranging from bots (which everyone is in love with right now) to software such as warehouse execution systems (WES).

“We also have to recognize that beyond changing processes and implementing new tools, cultural barriers to change do exist. For instance, Harry does putaway, and Amy does item picking. And they don’t necessarily want to do anything else,” explains Dan Gilmore, chief marketing officer at Softeon.

Optimizing processes

You can find plenty of opportunities to gain payback in a conventional warehouse. Just ask Gilmore.

He immediately turns to task interleaving and picking strategies. Both processes are guided by a WMS, but it’s all about the efficiency that delivers value.

“Task interleaving alone can deliver up to a 20% productivity improvement,” says Gilmore. On the picking side, batch and cluster picking strategies deliver far more process efficiency than sequenced pick tickets with no logic to the flow of goods or people, he adds.

Get Gilmore on a roll here and he spins up to the concept of a perpetual picking cart. He describes a warehouse with 20 pick carts, each with nine order slots. That allows 180 orders to be processed at a time. Or does it?

He suggests that as an order on a cart is filled, that tote is dropped off and an empty one for a new order is added. As a result, each cart can process more than nine orders over time, essentially becoming the perpetual picking cart Gilmore originally referenced.

What’s new in capital expenditures

Clean data is also essential to the WES systems that augment WMS. As Gilmore explains, a WES provides “real-time visibility to orders and offers opportunity to relieve congestion on the warehouse floor and optimize order fulfillment efficiencies.”

While WES have traditionally been associated with automated warehouses, Gilmore says the software is beginning to gain a foothold in conventional warehouses. Typical benefits include increased throughput and velocity, and an ability to solve processing bottlenecks.

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Source: Material Handling 24/7

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