A warehouse generally gives a picture of neglect unless we dig deep to know what is happening behind the mess and clutter of stocks. Warehousing is one area that needs excellent focus to improve performance and operations. To get maximum output through minimum efforts, a number of best practices can be adopted which will improve productivity and overall customer satisfaction. There is no single list of best practices that can be applied to all, and differ from industry to industry.
Labour Time: Labour time is one area that determines the performance of the operations. Reduced labour time can be achieved in a number of ways. There should be less distance between the most frequently picked up store items and the warehouse. Not only will this help companies achieve their competitive advantage but also through this they can constantly review their sales data to ensure that the items that are most frequently picked are stored close to the shipping area. Warehouse layout also plays an important part in achieving greater efficiencies, minimizes travel time between picking locations can greatly improve productivity. A regular monitoring can help review the efficiency and introduce corrective measures.
Hard copy picks are not very efficient and prone to human errors. New technologies like pick-to-light system and voice picking system are being adopted as most advanced systems by world class warehouses. Even hand-held RF readers and printers are componenets of this advanced system.
- Pick-to-light system: Will scan a bar-coded label attached to a box and a digital display located in front of the pick bin will inform the operator of the item and quantity that they need to pick. Companies are typically using pick-to-light systems for their top 5 to 20% selling products.
- Voice picking systems inform the operator of pick instructions through a headset. The pick instructions are sent via RF from the company’s ERP or order management software. The system allows operators to perform pick operations without looking at a computer screen or deal with paper picks tickets. Many world class warehouse operations have adopted voice picking to complement the pick-to-light systems in place for their fast moving products.
Enter Third Parties
Third-party logistics (3PL) firms are entering the market as many of these people either do not have the required space, don't want the headache involved in managing a warehouse or simply because the services offered by 3PL's are better.
There are challenges that differ product wise, service wise, labour shortage, demand wise etc.. According to Nihar Parida, VP, Logistics and Marketing, Uniworld Logistics, "The major challenge for any DC handling Fashion Brands is the Large SKU base and managing Seasonality. Uniworld manages huge daily throughput and managing repacking is another major activity. Uniworld through its space optimization technique and an efficient manpower carries Source-to-Store operations with a high level of accuracy. The supplies to stores is carried out in two ways one by cross-dock and another is regular replenishments. Cross-Dock operations helps in realization of time and cost as it skips retrieval, put away and repacking steps while regular replenishments are also done day-wise for particular brands in all the stores . Uniworld has achieved tremendous growth volume-wise, it faced a major challenge last year when DLF opened new stores leading to increase in throughput all of a sudden, and the same was handled by a seamless and timely replenishments. Uniworld is emerging as an upcoming lead Service Provider with its warehousing expansion plans and also entering into FTWZ concept with a sole motive of Serving the Customer with the Best of Services”.
New inovations are taking place, even in services that are provided. For example: Safexpress has been providing a unique value-added supply Chain & Logistics service known as Reverse Logistics to numerous top corporates in the country. Under this service various value added services are provided with respect to customer returns. For instance, usually in case a new product is found to be defective, retailer returns it to the distributor, who in turn gives it back to the manufacturer. Safexpress directly takes these defective goods under its possession and moves them to its warehouses where they are repaired & re-shipped. Thereby Safexpress steps in to reduce the time and cost involved in the backward supply chain and prevents customer dissatisfaction, cash lockdown for the retailer, and a rise in the distributor’s inventory.