Distribution Digest Offers Cool Tips and Wonderful Advice

Distribution Digest recently solicited advice from several industry experts on questions involving Pick Area Redesign, Improving Inventory Accuracy, and WMS Implementation Surprises. They compiled these useful tips from Lawrence Dean Shemesh of OPSdesign Consulting, Vinod Chouhan of Iovate Health Sciences International, and Jeff Mueller of Sedlak.

Asked about redesigning a forward pick area to improve picking productivity, Lawrence Dean Shemesh, president of OPSdesign Consulting, offered these tips:

Crunch the numbers. To develop a model for an optimized forward picking area, you will need to develop a cubic velocity profile for each stockkeeping unit (SKU) to be picked.
–Take the historical sales records for each SKU and combine them with sales forecast factors.
–Combine with the cube dimensions associated with each item (usually derived from the item master).
–End result: the cubic movement (expressed in square feet) of a particular SKU over a particular time frame.

Concurrently, track how many times each SKU is “hit” (hits are the number of times a picker visits that particular pick-facing, regardless of quantity picked) in the same time frame. The object is to determine which movement/hit bucket each SKU falls into and, as a result, which type of picking module is optimal for that profile. Then you can begin to design your forward pick area around the number and type of module suggested by the calculations.

Paper-based picking, RF scan gun picking, pick to light, voice-driven picking, and automation/mechanization alternatives should be evaluated as part of a comprehensive analysis. Other considerations include the pick method itself: discrete order picking vs. batch pick and sort methods. Should you pick to cart, tote, carton, truck, or conveyor belt?

Although these engineering efforts are substantial, they do produce the best balance of travel, pick density, and replenishment activity.


Distribution Digest also received these suggestions from Vinod Chouhan, a supply chain specialist with Iovate Health Sciences International Inc. in Mississauga, Ontario, on improving inventory accuracy:

–Randomly check receiving and shipments to be sure the units are correct. For example: In the consumer packaged goods and the pharmaceutical industries, stock is often packaged as individual pieces or as multi-piece displays. If employees confuse display units with individual piece units, or vice versa, it can cause big swings in inventory.

–Spot-check the inventory randomly and look for the inventory under shelves. Most of the time when pickers are packing the order, they act fast. In this process, they often drop small inventory on the floor, which ends up either in the dustbin or under the shelf.

–Identify the troubled stockkeeping units and monitor them closely for a month or so. This will help you discover why errors occur.


And finally, Jeff Mueller, vice president of Sedlak, offered these ideas on how to prepare for unexpected problems in a warehouse management system (WMS) implementation:

–Start with the end in mind. Visualize how the operation will run after the WMS project is complete. Write down everything you see – in great detail. Assemble a team of individuals related to the project and gain consensus about all parts of your document, including the change order management process.

–If problems do arise, they’ll be resolved quickly through team effort. For instance, often there are differences of opinion about order scheduling and picking processes. Your team needs to find common ground and have a complete understanding of how to handle these functions. Otherwise, down the road, someone will be confused. Confusion costs time and money, and can even put the implementation project at risk.

–Don’t wing it or the project will soon be out of control. Keep your team’s eyes focused on the end – a smoothly running operation with the help of your new WMS.

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