Retailers often think wholesalers, warehouses and mail-order companies have it easy. No need for fancy displays, expensive high street premises, constant manning of tills or vigilance for shoplifters. In actuality, stock management, order picking, packaging and deliveries turn out to be far more demanding than anything equivalent in retail.
Picking is the most expensive routine in any warehouse, and failure to do it well alienates customers – costing even more. Embracing better methodologies is as valuable as new technology for any storage-intensive enterprise. Smarter strategies make a big difference.
Slotting is part science and part art, but it is surprising how many businesses don’t attempt to use it in any form. Just relocating your top sellers to a rapid-access zone will make a huge difference. Review which lines to keep there on a seasonal basis. If you use boltless shelving, you can easily adjust shelves for changing product lines.
If you can afford to automate, then asset tracking software based on bar codes or RFID can analyse which lines are moving fastest and then calculate the ideal slot to minimise movement between stock location and dispatch bay. Some asset tracking software is free.
Your shelving choices dictate how easy it will be for you to experiment with new ideas and adapt to changing requirements. A professional supplier of boltless shelving has the industry experience to provide you with good advice about the kind your business needs.
Pickers spend half their time walking, and that’s a major overhead. Mechanical conveying can reduce that considerably. Your system doesn’t necessarily need to be powered or computer automated. Ordinary rollers are often sufficient to shunt goods in batches from picker zones to packer zones. Conveyers work especially well with first-in, first-out systems.
Fatigued pickers make mistakes. When they travel less to fulfil orders they are not only faster but more accurate. One alternative is to make each picker responsible only for goods within a single zone. The order then moves from zone to zone instead of the picker.
In a variation called wave-picking the order goes simultaneously to every zone but each picker remains responsible within only one.
Batch picking is another alternative. Pickers still move across the warehouse but collect goods for several orders at once, reducing trips overall.