The weather may still be warm, the leaves on the trees mainly green, but the supply chain is in full motion like the Polar Express bearing down on the its next destination. Preparing for and successfully implementing fourth quarter order fulfillment for non-perishable and grocery products alike are often the biggest challenges of the year in the material handling industry. So, how do you most effectively prepare? What are the best tools for the job?
Seasonality affects staffing, equipment, stocking, supplies and facility use. Inventory space must be made for new arrivals which may mean having to shift current merchandise. Pallet racking and industrial shelving allow for existing inventory to be accessible for fulfillment while not taking up the prime warehouse “real estate” space for the fast-moving seasonal SKUs.
Focus then returns to outbound flow. Based upon solid sales forecasting, new employees need to be hired and trained on order fulfillment processes and restocking techniques. Simple to operate and yet efficient FIFO storage solutions like gravity flow products are good fit here. Single aisle restocking and multi SKU face picking with easy identification make these a “go-to” for seasonal merchandise. Pallet flow is easily converted to non-seasonal merchandise once the demand has passed. Not to be underutilized, existing employees can be “cross trained” to learn how to operate any new equipment or technologies so as best to utilize your workforce as demand increases.
Picking and packing technologies such as these can prove vital in controlling fulfillment:
- pick-to-light systems (consolidate picking trips/travel time, increasing throughput)
- automated outbound sortation conveyors (faster speeds, higher ship rates)
- scanners for higher accuracy and efficiency
- packaging technologies
Pick planning and order batching permits the most efficient use of both picker and equipment. Duplicate slotting (mirroring) of high-demand SKUs in a forward pick area eases congestion by spreading out processed orders in their movement to the docks. Properly designed conveyor systems work hand-in-hand with the warehouse management system (WMS) to ensure the completed order is captured and loaded for its destination to store or to home.
Consideration must also be given to the percent of return products that will come back into the warehouse. In reality it is often cheaper for the seller to dispose of the item than to slot it back into the system for storage and redistribution, but handling returns can be made more economical by staging a quality inspection at the receiving dock to make restocking decisions and to return products back to inventory as quickly and cost effectively as possible.
Early planning for peak demand avoids capacity constraints, order backlog and unnecessary management/employee stress. The experienced professionals at E-Distribution can review your current environment and peak demands to develop an economical and highly efficient storage and distribution system for you.
Contact us for a free evaluation at (866) 690-4585 or via link: firstname.lastname@example.org.
E-Distribution is based in Wylie, Texas with valued customers throughout the United States.