By looking backward at your supply chain, you can take the materials you handle every day, and make their processing easier and more efficient It is all too easy to consider your distribution operation as a closed system that simply has to receive the materials that are brought into the DC and then ship them out in the most efficient manner possible.
We investigate what can happen if you think outside of the warehouse box and consider how changes made outside the warehouse may end up benefiting your distribution center.
1. Standardize pallet heights
Do you have pallets that have a lot of “dead space” above them, or are you repalletizing receipts to fit because the pallets are too tall? Ask your suppliers if they can build pallets differently to maximize your ability to store material in the facility. Develop standard pallet heights as part of your supplier requirements.
2. Change box sizes and pack quantities and layouts
Depending upon the type of storage you are using, it may be beneficial to request changes the sizes of vendor boxes and pack quantities to simplify slotting and replenishment. If you can influence your suppliers, changes in the dimensions and inner pack quantities of received boxes will help you to slot product more compactly and improve picking efficiency. Even if you aren’t able to change an individual box dimension, you may be able to get your vendor to change the stacking height of a pallet so that it will better fit your storage system. Choose box formats and sizes that fit your storage needs
3. Embrace easy open packages
Some packaging can be made with “tear to open” corrugated tops rather than the traditional four-flap boxes. This can facilitate faster replenishment and/or order selection. Other options include removable lids and returnable nested containers, made of either cardboard or plastic.
4. Color coded information
Color-coded information is often intuitive and easy to decipher visusally. An example would be to have different colors for items expiring in different quarters of the year. Another example would be to use colors to identify different product groups. You may be able to get your suppliers to stick colored labels on the outside of master cartons to aid in visual identification.
Sam Flanders is president of Durham, NH-based Warehouse Management Consultants