Improving warehouse efficiency

Warehouse management systems don’t manage warehouses - people do!  Making a warehouse efficient requires many steps - from insuring that the location and design of the facility enables the appropriate storage and flow of product, to making each department work together to maximize throughput with a minimum of total labor.

Don’t get us wrong, a warehouse management system is a necessary part of controlling the activities inside the four walls.  But warehouse management systems don’t anticipate the ebb and flow of business - from managing the quarter end rush to slow days after Christmas. 

Here are areas where we help our clients increase their warehouse efficiency and generate significant savings in both time and lead-time as well as cost.

Network design From a transportation and labor perspective, where is the best place to locate a warehouse to meet customers’ service needs? With warehouse workers becoming more difficult to find, (See article) identifying the right labor markets can have a significant impact on total cost and, more importantly reliability. And we can’t forget attaining state and local incentives that can save millions. Call us if you want help locating in the least cost, highest service place.
Automation and layout What is the appropriate level of material handling automation and how should the facility be designed? If the cost and reliability of labor changes, the economics for automation change too. One major retailer recently reduced its investment hurdle on automation to allow projects with a six-year payback to proceed. What level of automation is appropriate given your financial hurdles and recognizing MHE requires highly-skilled staff to make it work. Call us if you want to a highly efficient warehouse.
Outsourcing Should the facility be outsourced? 3PL’s generally run with lower labor costs and can bring expertise in this, their area of competence. Well, that is the standard line. It’s important to understand the relative capabilities of in-house versus 3PL management as well as the long-term opportunity for cost reduction through warehouse efficiency. And, since most companies are reluctant to give away their “low-hanging fruit” in a gain-sharing relationship, what warehouse optimization can be done before the 3PL takes over? Call us if you want a detailed analysis of the right way to improve warehouse efficiency.
Lean warehousing It’s often hard to identify waste. But waste is everywhere. For example, in anticipation of higher volumes (that ebb and flow again) choosing the wrong order to assemble early can force repeated trips to the pick area to retrieve products that were not there on the first pass.   Choosing the right orders to preassemble can eliminate this waste while providing the needed buffer for the high-demand period. Our software partner Transportation | Warehouse Optimization has helped our clients leverage sophisticated waste-elimination software Call us if you want to save money through lean warehousing optimization.
Optimized picking and loading Often the most labor in a warehouse is performing case-pick duties. This, along with truck loading, is an area rife with “tribal knowledge.” Both case picking and truck loading is far from a repeatable, high quality, value-add process. Workers, using rules-of-thumb, assemble pallets without complete knowledge of how each piece will fit into the three-dimensional puzzle that is the total trailer load.   When multiple loaders are presented with the same shipment, each has their own “best” approach to meeting crush, damage and axle-weight restrictions. Our clients, working with our sister company and using the APAL software have been able to make case picking and truck loading a repeatable process that improves case pick productivity by 15 to 20%, increase load size by up to 10% and cut damage by more than 50%. Call us if you want a low cost order truck loading and order pick solution.
Capacity balanced scheduling Making sure that each department feeds its next, dependent department with the right product at the right time in the right amounts is a significant challenge in itself. Our software partner, Transportation | Warehouse Optimization, has helped our clients leverage sophisticated capacity based scheduling software  Call us if you want materials to smoothly flow through your facility. 
Campus management Often manufacturing lines take over valuable warehouse space necessitating a campus of buildings to act as a storage buffer as well as a customer-facing distribution center. What should go where - both strategically and operationally?  Frequently, there are many moves among the sites driven by the lack of space and seldom is the right item in the right place at the right time.  While everybody would agree that moving one pallet to the 20 others on an order makes the most sense, virtually all warehouse management systems don’t support this intelligence.  Making this decision is left to over-taxed staff.  Their response is generally “kiss” - keep it simple.  “If it is a Wal-Mart order it always ships from building A “.  We can help make the intelligent decisions.  P&G credits our support saving 33% of the warehouse transactions and eliminating millions of dollars of cost in one of their busiest facilities.  Call us if you want to make your warehouse highly efficient.