Many warehouses have adopted the wave model for picking where multiple orders are batched together and released for picking as a single group (the "wave") instead of being released piecemeal. Fewer warehouses have used the wave model for replenishment though. Some warehouse managers debate the pros and cons of wave replenishment. On the one hand, it appears to offer a useful means of labor consolidation, but on the other hand, there is some question as to whether or not it is really relevant with modern real-time order processing. Here's what you need to know:
- Wave Replenishment is Versatile - Some people believe that wave replenishment is only relevant if you have an older system and need to prioritize orders manually. The truth is that wave replenishment can be used within advanced warehouse replenishment systems to position stock for orders according to customer deadlines, or groups of a single product type. Your WMS can be used to manage your waves.
- Wave Replenishment is a Great Way to Block Time - Working in waves is a great way to split your day into time windows. This is useful for managing labor tightly, handling overlapping shifts, and moving teams from place to place when short staffed. By organizing your day into blocks you can create targeted windows for productivity and handling specific types of orders as well.
- Wave Replenishment Isn't Just About Picking - Too often companies think of wave replenishment in terms of how it will affect their picking team on the other end. In reality, wave replenishment has much more to do with available space on your floor and available equipment, such as lifts. Your warehouse replenishment team may need to coordinate their efforts in a way that doesn't cause unnecessary traffic on the floor, or produce too much downtime when there are not enough lifts available for a specific set of tasks.
- Wave Replenishment Doesn't Produce the Downtime You're Expecting - Some people fear that releasing orders in waves means that their team will rush through a block of work and then sit around until the next wave begins. This is not necessarily true. With modern WMS and warehouse replenishment programs, the system will provide all of the needed visibility to ensure that the entire wave completes together before moving to the next task.
Now is the time to consider whether a wave system could boost your warehouse replenishment productivity and give you more control over how and when replenishments take place. Modern WMS programs have found ways to integrate wave replenishment support and offer tools for ensuring waves are handled as efficiently as possible without creating empty blocks in your day.