Any active warehouse has two main goals. First, you are looking to reduce your operating costs for a given level of volume. Secondly, you are looking to speed up your processes without sacrificing accuracy. Your storage policy and picking strategies directly affect how well you are able to achieve these goals.
Choosing where and how to store your products can be surprisingly complex. There are several common methods in use today, but many warehouses combine several methods throughout their warehouse to get the greatest warehouse efficiency possible.
- Random Locations - Many warehouses use randomly assigned locations which basically allow your put away team to drop an item wherever they can find space. This can be effective because it means that your team might spend relatively little time putting inventory away. Of course, if it is truly random all over the warehouse, this may slow your pickers down since there is no rhyme or reason to how things are located.
- Store by Type - You may choose to put like items together in your warehouse because of how they fit in the racks. For instance, creating a bulk section of warehouse for large items, or a section for small items that fit in bins away from your larger items. There isn't any mystery which general area a particular type of part is located, but your pickers may find themselves going back and forth between the different types of locations.
- Store by Velocity - Finally, some companies store items based on how fast they move through the warehouse. Slow moving items can be put in the back, while high volume items can stay in more accessible locations that are closer to the docks.
In reality, combining all three of these methods is often the best way to improve your warehouse efficiency. For instance, creating a hot zone for high volume items while the rest of your warehouse is randomly assigned or assigned by type.
Routing your pickers is subject to the same kind of options as put away. You can choose just one method of picking, or you can combine several methods to see great results.
- Single Order Picking by Line Item - This is the slowest method available but it is often used by companies who dispatch orders on demand.
- Zone Picking - Assigning pickers to a specific zone or aisle so they are only moving within a limited area of the warehouse, thereby reducing their steps.
- Batch Picking - Picking multiple orders at one time speeds up the process and reduces trips back to the drop off zone.
There are many ways you can combine location schemes and picking systems to make the most of your available labor hours. Your choices will determine how easily your team can move through the warehouse.