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You Might Have a Bad Warehouse If... You pick from "permanent" storage areas

By Kate Vitasek | 01/18/2010 | 10:18 AM

This bad warehouse is brought to you courtesy of the esteemed Tom Speh, Senior Director of MBA Programs at Miami University. In this bad warehouse Tom witnessed order pickers going to the company's "permanent storage" location, at the farthest corners of the warehouse, to pick cases of product to fill shopping orders. The "permanent storage" area was "suppose" to be for product stored for longer than 90 days, but Tom saw order pickers repeatedly going to pull cases out of the pallets stored there.

If you catch your picking team going the distance (literally) to pick product from "permanent storage" areas, ask yourself just how efficient can it be to make repetitive carton picks from pallets meant to be in storage, instead of from picking locations.

Picture2 How might this warehouse address their problem better? The Warehousing Education and Research Council advocates using a "Forward Pick Area" or "Picking Module" in a dedicated area specifically designed to enhance order picking operations. It may be something as simple as racks containing cartons (and possibly individual units if you ship that way), or it could be a flow rack area which may even utilize pick to light or voice picking technology. The pictures demonstrate an example of forward pick areas (on the left) and picking modules (on the right).

WERC also recommends the picking area be located close to the packaging and shipping area so that it can operate as efficiently as possible, with the fastest moving items located closest to the pack / ship area to reduce picking travel time.

If you are spPicture1ace constrained and do not have room for a picking module, then at a minimum keep some of the slow moving items in the main warehouse as "primary location" and then replenish as needed from the more "permanent location". In this case consider using the lowest rack spaces down each aisle for storage of broken pallets and do carton picks from there, moving a full pallet down to that area as the cartons are consumed. Keeping the area used for picking cases low can also enhance performance through elimination of the constant rising and lowering of a lift.

Now a word on "permanent storage". If I had my way, I would permanently ban the term "permanent storage". Today's warehouse should focus on distribution and flow of product - not parking it somewhere permanently, even if "permanent" really means 90 days. It's perfectly OK to have more than one slot for your product - but a better and more common terminology is "primary" and "secondary" locations.

For those wanting to learn more about picking operations, we recommend the following resources:

I really love your feedback - and love you’re contributions to share those bad warehouse stories to help educate the profession on what NOT to do, and perhaps what to do if you’re not doing it.

If you've got an example of a bad warehouse practice, send me your story and photo(s) to [email protected].

If I feature your example in one of my blogs, WERC will send you a free copy of the WERC Warehousing & Fulfillment Process Benchmark & Best Practices Guide (a $160 value).

Your submission can be anonymous if you like so you don't get your boss or company in trouble! I'll be collecting examples all year and the winner will receive a free warehouse assessment by Supply Chain Visions, a $10,000 value. The runner up will win a free conference registration to the WERC conference (a $1,375 value).

Thank you again Tom Speh for your bad warehouse story! We'll get a copy of the WERC Warehousing & Fulfillment Process Benchmark & Best Practices Guides in the mail to you as a thank you for sharing your wisdom and fun!

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The opinions expressed herein are those solely of the participants, and do not necessarily represent the views of Agile Business Media, LLC., its properties or its employees.

About Kate Vitasek

Kate Vitasek

Kate Vitasek is a nationally recognized innovator in the practice of supply chain management. Vitasek is founder of Supply Chain Visions—a boutique consulting firm specializing in supply chain management. She is also a faculty member at the University of Tennessee's Center for Executive Education. A prolific writer, Vitasek has authored the Council of Supply Chain Management Professionals' best-selling mini-book series, Supply Chain Process Standards, and has contributed to other management books as well. Along with Karl Manrodt of Georgia Southern University, she co-leads WERC's popular annual benchmarking study.

About Steve Murray

Steve Murray

Steve Murray is a Principal Consultant and Chief of Research for Supply Chain Visions, a boutique consulting firm specializing in supply chain management. Prior to joining Supply Chain Visions he held a variety of functional and management roles in the distribution and manufacturing sectors, including 15 year managing an IT consulting firm. Steve has been instrumental in development of the Council of Supply Chain Management Professional's "Supply Chain Management Process Standards", the Warehousing Education and Research Council's Warehousing & Fulfillment Process Benchmarking & Best Practice Guide" and the WERC "Warehouse Certification Program". He is lead auditor for the WERC's Certification Program.


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