Continuing our Monday post, today we provide more tips to ramp up warehouse efficiency by improving material handling processes in distribution centers. In a recent Supply Demand Chain article, TriFactor systems engineer Greg Tuohy offered these suggestions:
- Re-evaluate pick tech. Eliminate paper-based picking in favor of auto-enhanced technology. Implementing radio frequency (RF), pick-to-voice or pick-to-light technology can make your operation more efficient. Evaluate the density of SKU locations, throughput, product characteristics and specialized procedures such as serial number tracking to determine the pick technology best suited to your operation, Tuohy advises.
- Evaluate pick method. Decide which picking method is most cost effective for your operation. Piece picking where the picker walks the aisles picking and completing one order at a time is the most time-consuming and, therefore, most costly. Small, maneuverable powered tugs can facilitate far more efficient batch picking where all orders are picked simultaneously in a single pass. Dolly pullers and electric tugs can also be used to streamline operations that use assembly-line style zone and wave picking. Powered carts and tugs help streamline your operation by increasing the speed and volume of work that can be accomplished by each worker.
- Multi-task. Practice task interleaving which combines picking with the put-away process, Tuohy suggests. Interleaving ensures that operators and equipment are always tasked, that time and energy are not wasted on empty loads. The idea is to create a continuous loop where equipment is always loaded, bringing materials to pick locations and returning empty pallets or delivering picked product to shipping locations.
- Minimize downtime. Equipment requires planned maintenance. A proactive maintenance plan will minimize downtime and save time and money. Planned maintenance should be conducted on equipment and automated systems on a regular schedule. Correct small problems immediately and keep frequently needed spare parts on hand.
- Protect power supply. Assess the vulnerability of your power supply. Lightning strikes, power outages and power spikes can wreak havoc with distribution systems, says Tuohy. Work with your local electric company to install surge protectors and other recommended protections. Battery-powered carts and tugs with enough juice to work through an entire shift can be the lifeline that keeps your operations moving when Mother Nature throws a fit.