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How to Increase Efficiency without Automation

4 hints to help warehouse productivity.

The warehouse industry is already benefiting from technological progress, and stands to greatly benefit in the future.  Automation minimises the risk of accidents and picking errors, as well as speeds up the stock-picking process.  However, some warehouses are not ready for automation, be it for financial reasons or logistics.  Either way, these warehouses need not miss out on revenue as a result.  There are certain ways that warehouses can improve their processes without adopting automation.  Here are some tips for improving efficiency in the warehouse:

1. Create different processes

Single-line orders are excellent processes to make autonomous.  This is because these orders can be picked and shipped directly, and can bypass the sorting and packing stages.  This makes them far more efficient already.  By separating single-line orders you can get a great deal of stock-picking done in a smaller amount of time, especially if you have a large amount of single-line orders.

An ideal situation would be the grouping of single-line orders that could allow pickers, in some cases, to be able to pull an entire batch from the pallet mole racking, and simply ship the individual cases.

2. Restructuring stock placement to suit retail habits

Many shops are moving away from the idea of having a great deal of inventory.  Less back-room stock means less to manage, and tracking inventory on the shelves is easier.  This, however, means that distribution centres are required to do a lot more piece picking.  But there is no reason that this new practice can’t be mutually beneficial.   By restructuring stock placement on selective pallet racking, picking efficiency can be greatly improved.

This can be achieved through two methods.  Firstly, identify the more frequent orders.  Stock that is ordered frequently is usually ordered in smaller batches, so practical placement of this stock on the pallet mole racking will decrease picking time.  Secondly, calculate the pick path to match the store’s ordering habits.

3. Group products according to families

Sometimes stock pickers don’t have to travel far on the pick path, which greatly reduces picking time (as mentioned previously).  However, this often happens out of coincidence rather than planning.  A great way to improve efficiency is to attempt to structure the entire warehouse to reduce the length of picking paths.  This may take a great deal of planning, but it is possible by grouping products according to product family as opposed to, for example, activity level.

4. Create unity

A combination of broken-case picking and full-case picking results in the full cases arriving at the loading dock before the smaller items.  This creates added labour and wastes time.  A good way around this is to pick the smaller items prior to the full cases, and store these in a designated section of selective pallet racking.  Then, when the full cases are pulled, the smaller items can go ahead of them onto the truck.

While automation is incredibly efficient, it may not benefit certain warehouses.  However, these warehouses can increase their efficiency through the application of these four tips.

Image credit: warehousingqld