Operations Q&A: Wandering the Warehouse Like Nomads of Biblical Times? - Modern Distribution Management

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Operations Q&A: Wandering the Warehouse Like Nomads of Biblical Times?

A few basic concepts can keep order pickers from becoming lost nomads.

Question: Wandering your warehouse like the nomads of biblical times?

Answer: Most of us have heard a story or two about nomads wandering the land in biblical times. For me it was the story of how the Jews wandered the desert for 40 years. All these centuries later there is still evidence of nomad-like wandering – however, instead of wandering under the brutal sun of the desert, it is happening regularly within the confines of warehouses and distribution centers.

I can't begin to count the times I've witnessed order pickers aimlessly walking about a warehouse attempting to pull an order. I was one of those; it was my first job, working for a wholesale tool company. I was presented with a handwritten picking ticket. There was no indication of where I could find the product, so I walked the aisles hoping to stumble upon the right item.

A few years ago during one of my consulting assignments, I stood at the beginning of one massively long aisle and watched as the forklift swerved from side-to-side as it lumbered down the aisle. If I didn't know better, I would have thought the driver was drunk. But no, they were looking for inventory where they thought it would be … but wasn't.

Bottom Line: Does any of this sound familiar? Have you seen it happen in your company? What can be done to eliminate – or at least dramatically reduce – this wasteful wandering? It depends.

Depends upon the functionality and sophistication of your computer system(s). Depends upon the types of inventory stocked. Depends upon whom you are selling to. Depends upon the layout of the facility. Depends, depends, depends.

However, here are some very basic concepts to consider:

  • Identify and clearly label each location.
  • Think strategically about where to place inventory. For example, use velocity, i.e. activity levels, to determine location.
  • Create "golden zones," those ergonomically efficient storage areas.
  • Use your software to store location data.
  • Keep information up-to-date. Remember the adage "garbage in, garbage out (GIGO)."
  • Train your people.

There are many steps that can be taken. Do what you can. It will result in greater efficiencies, increased productivity and a boost to your bottom line.

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