6. Consider or re-think your current picking technology. Assuming you have measured accurately the number of lines being pulled by each operator, now may be the time to evaluate the feasibility of using a picking technology such as Radio Frequency (RF), Pick-To-Voice or Pick-To- Light, thus eliminating paper based picking which may not be cost-efficient for your shipping needs. Factors in making the proper picking technology decision should include density of SKU locations, required throughput, characteristics of the items you are picking, and any specialized procedures in place, such as serial number tracking.
7. Select the picking method that is right for your company. Evaluate the merits of piece picking, where a picker picks one order at a time by walking up and down each pick aisle until the entire order is complete. How cost-effective is this versus, say, batch picking (a picker picks all orders at the same time in the same pass), zone picking (pick area is broken up into individual pick zones, similar to an assembly line), or wave picking (all zones are picked at the same time, rather than having orders move from zone to zone)?
8. Practice task interleaving. This refers to the process and method of combining your active picking with the put-away process. Warehouse Management Systems (WMS) utilize logic to direct lift truck operators to put-away a pallet while enroute to the next full pallet pick. For example, if a forklift operator receives instructions to put away a pallet, the WMS will initiate a pallet pick so the forklift operator does not come back without a load. Since the average forklift operates on a 33.5 lb. LP tank, that costs an average of $25-$30 to fill, with a tank life of only about eight hours, you can see the cost-effectiveness of not coming back empty-handed.
9. Keep system downtime to a minimum. Conveyors, carousels, palletizers and other devices such as tapers, case erectors, and stretch wrappers require planned maintenance. Equipment should be inspected, maintenance records stored with easy access, and small problems corrected immediately.
Automated distribution centers should conduct planned maintenance at regular intervals, particularly belt tracking for conveyors, taking motor temperatures and lubricating as necessary. Spare parts, such as motors, belts, bearings and rollers, should always be on hand. The investment in a good maintenance plan will keep your orders moving and potential large investments in replacing equipment to a minimum.
10. Examine your equipment’s vulnerable points from a power management perspective. Mother Nature is not always a friend to a distribution center. If lightning issues or erratic power outages are frequent in your area, protect your distribution center from potential power spikes by using surge protectors and conditioning your service from the local electric utility provider.
Don’t let the minimal cost of surge protection cause major damage to your equipment or wipe out the programming in your controls. Remember, one damaged power supply can shut down a sorter, resulting in hundreds of thousands of dollars in overtime and delayed transportation expenses.
These 10 ways to improve your material handling efficiency can help increase the amount of perfect orders being shipped, and in so doing ensure customer satisfaction and promote increased sales. And along the way you’ve successfully answered that all-important question, “What is my commitment to my customers?”