In this 6th in a series of six consecutive posts we detail key findings from Aberdeen Research’s surveys of over 130 firms that employ warehousing. What are their challenges, what actions are they taking to improve, where are they investing, and ultimately, what does it take to be nearly “perfect” when it comes to warehouse order fulfillment? Read on…
In this final post on fulfillment excellence in the warehouse, we look at the actions Aberdeen Research has concluded are necessary for any firm to improve its operating efficiencies.
Whether you’re in the top 20% of all warehouses surveyed – meaning you deliver 98% of your orders “perfectly” and have actually reduced unit labor and overall warehouse costs year over year… or you’re in the “average” (middle 50%) category… or if you’re a “laggard” delivering more than 8% of orders “imperfectly” and lagging behind 80% of other, better warehouse operations… there are lessons to be learned by everyone. These were determined, by category, as follows:
For the Laggards
Start with the picking process. That’s half your direct labor. Can you pick multiple orders concurrently? Do you have interactive information regarding puts – commonly available by using RF (radio frequency) handhelds integrated with WMS software to manage your picking, packing, put-aways and shipping?
Use labor management to compare task performance with standards. Put labor standards to work, and measure your performance to improve.
For the Average Firm
Besides the above… can you switch employees dynamically between functions (picking, replenishment, etc.)? Can you do it in real time? This is called task interleaving, and it improves labor efficiency in the warehouse.
How well do you manage containers, and the orders and lines they contain? Explore ways to incorporate carton management or confirmation to increase service.
And Even for the Best in Class Firm
Leverage 3rd Party Logistics (3PL) providers. Sometimes, outsourcing is the most economical alternative to order fulfillment when you’re running near current capacity, and capital is scarce.
Leverage emerging automation and mobility solutions. This works in companies with high volumes of small direct-to-consumer shipments. Solutions here include real-time technologies embracing voice, mobile warehousing and advanced material handling as long-term platforms for growth.
All companies today can benefit from the move from paper-based, batch systems to today’s fully automated, real-time, RF-controlled, event-driven WMS solutions. They can, as Aberdeensums it up, “reap rewards in the form of reduced labor costs and improved customer service, while becoming more agile under today’s multi-channel logistics requirements.”
** END of Series **