Editor’s Choice: The Ultimate Guide to Reducing Warehouse Travel

warehouse travelNote: Today’s post is part of our “Editor’s Choice” series where we highlight recent posts published by our sponsors that provide supply chain insights and advice. Today’s article is from Lucas Systems and highlights the ways to reduce warehouse travel.

Labor is the single largest operating cost in most DCs and warehouse travel often accounts for half of all labor time, especially in order picking. In some DCs, pickers can travel upwards of 12 miles per shift.

Labor productivity and efficiency is critical to DCs that are struggling to hire and retain workers amid tight labor markets and rising wages. Adding to the challenge, demand for warehouse workers continues to grow as companies build new fulfillment centers and expand existing facilities to satisfy the growing volume of direct-to-consumer shipments.

According to U.S. government labor statistics, the growth in eCommerce sales is driving a 10 percent annual increase in demand for warehouse labor. By 2025 ecommerce is expected to expand by an additional $1.4 trillion and account for 50% of the growth in retail. At that level, the industry will need 20 percent more DC workers than it employs today

In addition, there is an emerging shortage of hourly workers across all industries. Improving productivity is imperative for meeting the ecommerce labor challenge. And reducing warehouse travel is the lynchpin to improving productivity.

Travel in Picking and Replenishment Processes is the Lynchpin

In a conventional, non-automated picking process, travel represents the majority of the time in a DC associate’s day. Warehouse workers following an RF-picking process will typically spend more time walking or driving between pick locations than they do pulling products from bins, slots or racking locations. As illustrated by the diagram (below), hands-free voice technology can significantly reduce time at the pick face, but it does not address the travel time between picks.

For years, DCs have devoted significant efforts to reducing warehouse travel through software solutions like slotting, conventional automation, and lean process initiatives. Those efforts are taking on new urgency as ecommerce growth boosts labor demand.

Tried and True Warehouse Travel Reduction Strategies

  1. Process Engineering. The most common process-related solution to the travel challenge is to split order lines by zone (based on product velocity, type/size, etc.), and to optimize picking processes in the various pick zones.Many DCs place their fastest moving piece pick items in pick modules with flow rack and conveyors. It’s not unusual for workers in a pick module using voice in a bucket brigade process to pick hundreds of lines per hour. Some Lucas customers hit 1000 picks per hour in high-density pick operations.Slower-moving items may be batch or cluster picked so users can pick multiple orders to a cart or pallet on a single trip through a warehouse zone. Moving from single order picking to batching can dramatically reduce travel by increasing pick density (i.e., the number of picks per unit of travel).

To read the full article, click HERE.

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