A warehouse can be a surprising environment for any manufacturing organization. With the modern conveniences of scanning, computerized item tracking, and inventory management software; the physical organization of a warehouse can quickly get overlooked.
Without a close examination at exactly how items are stored a custom manufacturer can become overwhelmed trying to track and store thousands of SKUs. That’s why Engineered Profiles undertook a year long process involving Shipping, Material Handling, Customer Service and Sales Support, as well as the IT Department to streamline its finished good storage and pick handling process.
Many of Engineered Profiles’ customers have literally thousands of unique SKUs when you factor in profile, color, and custom lengths. Shippers had noticed that as our business increased the process to prepare an order for shipment had become more complex. When this was brought to the attention of management a joint project to conquer this challenge was initiated with a local university. A visual study was then undertaken of the current picking.
The first inefficiency identified was the layout of finished goods in the racking system. Previously Material Handlers could use a barcode system in the warehouse to put any item in any location. A new system was devised to work with this scanning technology to organize items based on customer as well as carton size. This was implemented with a reorganization of the racking system by Shipping and Material Handling associates, with attention to detail being paid to make sure the new racking configuration supported and protected the finished plastic extrusions.
The IT department was brought in to collaborate with Customer Service and Sales Support to analyze order patterns and shipping pick reports. An algorithm was developed to not only organize the pick by box size, but in order from top to bottom corresponding with the length of the polymer parts and their location in the racking. This allowed associates preparing the shipments to make one serpentine trip through the racks per pick ticket with minimal searching for the items required to complete the order. This process took a year complete from start to finish, and a subsequent year to study its effects. The careful planning by all the departments involved have resulted in a 131% improvement in shipment picking and staging efficiencies. The side benefits from improving the process for the shipping department has also resulted in better on time delivery and reduced shipping costs.
The warehouse efficiency project was a tremendous success for everyone at Engineered Profiles. Efforts are currently under way to do an examination of Raw Materials with an eye towards gaining similar efficiencies for the production environment. Sometimes a look at a small portion of the business can result in big gains for both company and customer.