Improve Your Warehouse Picking Process

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When you started out with big dreams and a handful of customers, you probably knew where everything was, right? As your company grew and added more employees, more customers, and more products, life became a bit more complicated. If you want to keep on top of things and continue to grow your business, it’s essential that you stay on top of your warehouse management.

Efficient operations demand that you know what items you have in your warehouse and can put your hands on them when orders come in. Of course, the bigger your warehouse operations, the more difficult it is to remain organized. A poorly run warehouse will be frustrating to employees and customers alike. On the other hand, an organized, well-run warehouse operation will contribute to employee productivity and customer loyalty.

One way to increase efficiency and save money is to re-tune your picking process regularly. As demand for products naturally rises and falls, it will affect the operation of your warehouse. How do you know when to re-tune your inventory picking process and the best way to do it?

Choose a strategy that works for your business

Because of the time and planning involved and the disruption to regular business, many companies feel they can’t afford to reorganize their warehouse processes regularly. But, in the long run, that thinking is counterproductive. The benefits of an up-to-date picking process far outweigh the temporary discomfort of re-tuning.

So, what’s the right approach for your company? Here are some options to consider:

1. When implementing a new ERP or WMS

Many business leaders agree that when you are implementing a new ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) solution or WMS (Warehouse Management System) is a great time to rethink your processes in light of the capabilities of your new software. Since there is a long time between software replacements, even years, this might not be often enough.

2. When doing year-end inventory count

Year-end is a good time to take stock of your processes. You’ll be able to see what’s selling and what is not and address any pressure points that have been slowing down your operations when your company is busiest.

3. As a reaction

Unfortunately, many companies take action only when something is broken. Taking a reactionary approach can lead to chaos. You’ll find yourself forced to make changes under pressure, and those unthought-out decisions may cause long-term problems.  If you’re not assessing and making proactive adjustments regularly, you’re not adapting—and possibly missing opportunities to save money, increase efficiency, and more.

4. Proactively

Your best strategy will be to reevaluate your processes proactively. Set a regular time, maybe monthly or quarterly, depending on how quickly conditions change at your company. Performing a regularly scheduled evaluation and adjusting accordingly ensures you’re not wasting money or time in your fulfillment process. Keep a better handle on your inventory and avoid dealing with disruptive reorganizations at the end of the year. But a word of warning: more is not always better. If you try to re-tune too often, you may cause more chaos than necessary.

Next, determine your process

Once you’ve decided on a strategy, the next step is to determine the process you’ll use to re-tune your picking process. Again, it depends on the size and scale of the re-tune. The first step would be to analyze what you have – what’s working, what isn’t.  With the data contained in your ERP system, you can use a reporting tool like Power BI or Jet Reports to determine what needs to be addressed. Examine your key metrics, such as top-selling items (based on dollar value or quantity.) Using the information you glean, there are a couple of options:

  1. Examine the data and determine what changes you can make to your physical warehouse setup. Perhaps you can move top-selling inventory closer to the packing/shipping area. Most ERP systems have functionality that can assist with this process.
  2. If your ERP has advanced warehousing functionality such as directed put-away and pick, be sure to take advantage of those features. That will be especially helpful if you’re doing a more comprehensive restructuring or large-scale changes in your warehouse management.

Re-Tuning with Microsoft Dynamics 365 Business Central

You can re-tune your picking process with Microsoft Dynamics 365 Business Central. Perhaps the most straightforward approach is to leverage the bin ranking functionality, using a picking algorithm to rank specific bins higher than others.  If you’re operating in a non-directed put-away pick location, you can use the Default checkbox for that bin on the Bin Content table. “Default” means that this is the spot within the warehouse where a particular item typically sits. The picking algorithm can check first to see if there is any available inventory to pick from that location.

In a Directed Put-away and Pick Location, you can use the Warehouse Reclass Journal to post a journal entry to move contents of one bin location to another and you can use continuous bin replenishment  to help you better manage inventory. In a non-directed put-away and pick location, you can use a tool called the Item Reclass Journal to move inventory between bins or locations.  If yours is a larger warehouse, you might have reserve bins not easily accessible where you store bulk items. In Dynamics 365 Business Central, this is called Bin Replenishment. It lets you set min/max quantities for how many of certain items you want to hold in specific bins. Set minimum and maximum amounts, and the system will alert you when your primary pick bin needs to be replenished from the bulk storage bins.

What’s your re-tuning strategy for 2021?

The bottom line is that whatever strategy you choose or the technology you select to support it, re-tuning your picking process should be on your list of recurring tasks. It will take the stress out of year-end while saving time and resources by improving productivity and inventory accuracy.

Would you like to know more about improving your warehouse picking process with Microsoft Dynamics 365 Business Central? Contact our experts at ArcherPoint and let us show you how.

By ArcherPoint, archerpoint.com

 

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