Improve Distribution for Peak | Fortna

    Reduce Disruption to Improve Distribution for Peak

    by Bryan Duncan

    Many warehouse operators will employ risk management strategies addressing worker safety, cybersecurity and insurance. However, one risk management practice often overlooked that can lead to significant disruptions is a peak season risk reduction plan.

    Best kicked-off three to five months prior to the seasonal busy time, this risk reducing practice helps identify key areas that can threaten productivity, throughput or lead to downtime.

    By addressing some of the areas listed below, warehouse operators can take a proactive approach to peak season and drive distribution optimization and efficiencies.

     

    Order Fulfillment

    While the availability of labor continues to be a challenge, one area of the warehouse that can see instant improvement is order fulfillment. By adopting more efficient fulfillment methods, an operation can see marked improvement in productivity, order fulfillment rate and a reduction in errors. Below are a few options to improve fulfillment.

    Slotting Software
    One of the quickest ways to improve picking is to adopt a sustainable slotting strategy. Slotting software, such as Fortna OptiSlot DC™, can take an operation’s products and consider their dimensions, weight, how quickly they turn, as well as other characteristics. It will then show a user where to slot the inventory for maximum efficiency that leads to a reduction in picking time and steps taken. Learn more about taking the first step with slotting.

    Picking Methodologies
    Picking is one of the most labor-intensive processes in the warehouse. Developing an easy and simple process can help reduce the need for seasonal labor. While many operations utilize a discrete order picking method where a worker picks one order one line at a time, there are many other methods that can create efficiencies and lower overall cost per order filled.

    • Zone Picking – Workers pick all SKUs located in their area or zone. Also known as pick and pass, this method allows for greater productivity as workers can pick orders while not leaving their zone.
    • Batch Picking – Workers pick multiple or a batch of orders at one time. This is a popular method for operations that do not have many SKUs and the products are not physically large or hard to move.
    • Wave Picking – Much like discrete order picking, the worker picks one order at a time; however, they have a specific time window to pick a wave of orders. This is helpful to hit specific shipping windows to meet customer expectations.
    • Cluster Order Picking – This method will necessitate a strong warehouse management system (WMS) and the use of a picking cart or a collaborative mobile robot as workers will use them to fulfill multiple orders at the same time.
    worker-in-distribution-center-peak

    Labor Challenges

    The need for labor during peak season will continue to be a challenge. There are a few strategies that can be employed before peak season to lessen the labor strain.

    Establish Quick Onboarding Programs
    While no company likes turnover, it is a reality of today’s business environment. To lessen the effects, having an established onboarding program is critical to getting new and seasonal employees up and running quickly. Utilizing simple automation and simple processes in the warehouse can shorten this activity.

    Synergize Marketing and Warehouse Operations
    Linking marketing with the operations team can help avoid unexpected order surges and the need for additional labor due to special deals or promotions. Having a slotting plan that can consider the promotional calendar can alleviate some operational pressures.

    Overflow and Temporary Workers
    During peak, most companies will have a need for overflow workers. To learn more, read our recent blog post discussing untapped labor pools and other strategies.

    forklift-worker-in-warehouse-peak

    Automating for Peak

    While prepping for peak season, a large-scale automation project might not be in the plan. However, there are a few less complex automation options that can be implemented in a short amount of time to be ready for peak.

    Warehouse Management Software
    By employing a WMS, an operation can take greater control over inventory and overall productivity. A company can obtain considerable visibility, business intelligence and control over the warehouse operation by using warehouse software.

    Voice Picking
    With a mobile headset, a worker is instructed with automated voice commands where and how many items to pick. Confirming the order with a worker’s voice allows them to work hands-free increasing safety and productivity.

    Shipping Automation
    There are many different options to automate part or all of the shipping process. The following automation options can reduce the labor needed in packing and shipping functions:

    • Print and apply machines or PANDA
    • Weight and dimensioning equipment
    • Carton and case closers
    • Rate shopping software for parcel

    Maintenance Strategies

    There have been two methods of maintenance inside warehouse operations – Reactive vs. Predictive.

    Reactive Maintenance
    Reactive Maintenance occurs when an operation responds to issues as they become or are becoming an issue. This is the current strategy of many warehouse operations.

    Predictive Maintenance
    Predictive Maintenance occurs when an operation considers factors like hours utilized and the recommended lifespan of critical parts, as well as using sensors to measure vibrations, temperature and other physical factors so an operation can respond to an issue before it becomes a larger problem or leads to downtime. Learn more about predictive maintenance.

    Peak preparedness is critical for success during the busy season. The right strategy and implementation can lead to high productivity and throughput while better utilizing labor.

     

    Fortna Can Help

    The Fortna Lifecycle Services group can be the key for your peak season success. System health checks, critical part lists, modernizations and retrofits and resident maintenance are a few of the offerings that can make your peak season run at peak performance.

    Contact Us 

    Bryan Duncan

    Vice President Sales, Global Lifecycle Services

    Bryan is Vice President Sales, Global Lifecycle Services for Fortna. Bryan has been in the logistics automation industry for 25+ years. He has been in sales, leadership and consulting specializing in complex automated systems with experience in the retail, food & beverage, grocery and industrial markets.

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