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How to optimize your warehouse processes

Patrick Van De Vyver | 04. Nov 2020
4 minutes read

Managing to double the throughput of your warehouse without making any big investments might sound too good to be true.

Despite many warehouse automations projects, the current distribution processes are running out of capacity and require substantial investments to cope with the evolving market demands. Many of the warehouse automation projects focus on specific storage areas and on increasing the picking efficiency. However, few of them increase the overall delivery cost, quality and performance of your warehouse.

But there are ways to re-shake  the warehouse and distribution processes without investing in bricks and mortar, software, outsourcing and risky projects. Let's have a look!

 

Typical warehouse processes

To explain how this is possible we need to first have a look at a typical warehouse delivery preparation process.

picking and packing process in warehouse

For single item deliveries, the process is often straightforward. But with a huge number of multi item deliveries on the other hand, it becomes more challenging

Typically, multi item deliveries needs to be consolidated (in master cartons, on pallets, or in cages). This consolidation takes place on the shipping floor, from the first item is picked to the last item is picked. In the meantime, this process is occupying valuable shipping floor space over several hours. This is quite ineffective.

Most warehouses store thousands of products. These products are ordered by a big number of customers. Different picking methodologies and storage areas are used based on the product characteristics, such as shelving, block storage, high bay, etc. Additionally, to optimize the picking process, batches of picking waves and picking by product algorithms are used - all resulting in the need to bring the right products together and consolidate them in line with the customer (multi item) delivery requirements.

distribution process in a warehouse

This consolidation phase (for goods coming from the different areas) is often the bottleneck in complex warehousing operations. Shipping floor spaces are constrained which results in customer deliveries being delayed because the goods are not able to leave the warehouse on fixed times during the day. This will have a big effect on customer satisfaction.

In most warehouses/ distribution centers, the consolidation process is not done in the most optimal way. This results in unnecessary additional physical deliveries and high transportation costs. If this consolidation does takes place, it is done in a way that limits the throughput of the warehouse/distribution centre substantially.

Supply chain and logistics executives wants to see the warehouses focus on their key mission: store and ship the ordered products correctly, and on time. And then leave the consolidation, packing, value added services to the distribution process.

New possibilities for warehouse excellence

There are already technology solutions in place that can optimize these processes. Monthly, millions of item picks are already consolidated and packed in the distribution process expanding the throughput of the “traditional warehouses” substantially. 

Just imagine: You pick all your items by product and store them randomly in the outbound trucks. You ignore all consolidation requirements, packaging requirements, value added services, transportation carrier requirements and leave this to the distribution processes. How would your warehousing throughput expand? How would it effect the overall performance of your warehouse?

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