Doing a Step-by-Step Analysis to Optimize Order Fulfillment and Increase Efficiencies
Innovations in material handling and warehousing solutions mean that today’s warehouse and distribution center operators have a lot of choices when it comes to equipment.
Of course, not every solution is right for every warehouse. So, how do you figure out what will work best for you and give you a solid return on investment?
1. Establish a Baseline
Let’s begin with taking a detailed look at your current operations and inventory.
- How many different SKUs do you have? What and how many different size items do you have?
- Which items move the quickest? Which SKUs typically ship together?
- How many box sizes do you have?
- What current storage and material handling solutions do you use and for which items?
Knowing the exact answers to all these questions is the critical first step in optimizing your operation.
2. Maximize Your Current Storage Space
Examine your current storage space and ask the following questions:
- Is your footprint fully utilized or even cramped?
- If you were to go to the top of a rolling ladder and look around your facility, would you see walls and empty vertical space? Do you use vertical storage and/or mezzanines?
A common storage mistake is failing to take advantage of vertical storage, which in some cases can mean a doubling of existing space.
3. Evaluate Your Flow
Making the most of picking, shipping, and the rest of the variables that affect throughput is essential to an efficient operation.
- Which of your processes are automated? Do you use conveyors, sortation devices, or picking systems?
- What is your throughput flow like? Is it quick and consistent, or are there bottlenecks?
- Are there redundant tasks in your flow? Are tasks performed in the most efficient order?
- How is your order accuracy?
It’s fundamental to know not only the number of units that are processed and moved through your facility, but also how efficient the entire process is.
4. Analyze Your Labor
A recent national survey found that 73% of warehouse operators can’t find enough labor to staff their facilities. But do you need to automate or increase your labor efficiency?
- How many shifts would we run if labor were available?
- What percentage of my operating expenses goes to labor?
- What would make sense to automate if the equipment provided a reasonable ROI?
Automated solutions are available for more than simply picking and sorting. It’s important to know what automation options exist for every aspect of your operation.
Finding the Right Solutions
Pinpointing your unique operational inefficiencies is critical to realizing warehouse solutions that tackle these challenges while providing a positive return on investment.
Going beyond simple shelving and pallet racking, the multitude of handling and storage solutions are as varied as the warehouses and distribution centers that implement them. Here are just a few:
- More sophisticated racking systems, such as selective, push-back, and drive-in pallet racks.
- Gravity and motorized conveyors.
- Vertical and horizontal carousels.
- Vertical lift modules and sequencers.
- Automated guided vehicles.
- Automated picking systems and sorters, and other AS/RS systems.
Keep in mind that not every automated system replaces human labor—many simply increase their efficiency and speed.
Preparing for Growth
As you answer all these questions and consider the solutions that may be right for you, be sure to consider that increased efficiencies likely will lead to growth and expansion.
Many solutions are inherently expandable, but for some you may want to think about where your operations will be in 5 or 10 years in order to make the best decisions.
IndPro Services, a leader in commercial systems and U.S. Federal Government procurement, provides efficient, innovative, and results-driven solutions.
Dedicated to improving efficiency in warehouse and distribution center operations, we work on the same side of the table with you to help you procure the best possible solution for your specific application.