Directed putaway in a warehouse refers to the placement of items into storage locations based on direction, or ‘rules’, offered by warehouse management software. Shelf locations can be advantageously directed this way to improve warehouse efficiency and labor savings in areas like shipment throughput velocity, returns processing or warranty repair.
By using business rules (or a warehouse management system that is ‘modifiable’), directed putaway can eliminate much of the guesswork on the part of a warehouse staffer, and shorten the time it takes to get new staff up to speed in the warehouse, since they don’t have to learn complicated location putaway schemes. The system can direct putaway to bins optimally located for, say, a kitting process required before final shipping – requiring that like items be grouped together for example.
One corollary to directed putaway that we’ve found useful (we utilize this in our own WMS package, called E-Z WMS) is a form of bin reservation, whereby a user stocking shelves is directed via a handheld device that only product “X” can be placed in bin “123”. This can be especially useful in environments that store small but expensive components, or where precise location is important for other company-determined reasons.
Sometimes, the packaging and storing requirements for a product will determine a directed putaway. Other times, special handling requirements (e.g., refrigeration) can determine storage locations. In lumber, putaway can be determined by species, lengths, assembly sequence or other common criteria – with the software either directing, or providing guidance to, the warehouse worker.
In the end, such models can create greater warehouse efficiencies, provide better use of critical warehouse space, create a more optimal order-filling process, and better support “mixes” of order types or special handling needs.
Using product putaway rules can often take what was a complex manual process and begin inserting some computer based logic into the system, based on your unique product, category or packaging requirements. With primary and secondary rules, you can begin to build into your WMS a level of intelligence that lets your whole floor team do more with less – less labor, fewer steps, lower costs. Best of all, since rules are often made to be broken, you can determine which rules to follow and when, and then build these contingencies into your system over time – provided that system is highly rules based, or allows for future modifications.
The facility for some form of directed putaway (or modification to allow it) is yet another key consideration in the management of today’s warehouse, and in the selection of the best warehouse management system for your firm’s unique requirements.