Order Fulfillment Throughput and Profitability

Jennifer Maloney
December 3, 2018

Components of a Successful Order Fulfillment Design Plan

When defining warehouse operation improvements for order fulfillment, the Numina Group believes the most effective approach is a collaborative approach.

It takes the combination of the distribution operation’s team input and a knowledgeable partner with application expertise in the latest advancements in distribution process automation technologies to develop the right solution to fit your order profile requirements.

By approaching the project in this manner, you’ll gain a successful design that takes wasted touches out of your operations while improving the management and control of order flow throughout the operation.

At Numina Group, we are always exploring and persistently researching process and software improvements to advance the automation technologies that will help our clients thrive in a tight labor market and more complex omni-channel distribution environments.

We partner with you and apply the knowledge we’ve gain to help your company achieve its business growth strategies. We evaluate current and future order growth and SKU data to validate processes and technologies that will accelerate performance and eliminate the bottlenecks in your pick, pack, and ship order fulfillment operation.

Omni-channel distribution, with the complexities related to its mix of e-commerce and retail fulfillment processes, requires software that manages people, processes, and product movement as an integrated, continuous order flow process.  

The core steps in distribution center design include the selection and matching of the right processes, technologies, and automation software to manage, control, measure, and enforce performance improvements. A distribution operation with the right processes, technologies, and automation in place will drive the highest return on investment.

How do you get there?

By performing a value stream mapping design study to understand current practices, identify issues holding back performance, and collaboratively brainstorm process improvements with our joint teams.

This results in a superior warehouse design that will drive labor saving and order accuracy, obtaining an order fulfillment solution tailored to your operation requirements. 

Components of a Successful Order Fulfillment Distribution Center Design:

DC road map – Data is key, so begin by conducting a current analysis of yearly, monthly, weekly, and daily order and SKU shipment data. Calculate the cost per order of each shipment category order type.

This exercise will generate a lot of team input and also result in everyone agreeing on one version of the truth.

SKU Slotting Analysis – Reviewing and understanding the order SKU velocity and cube size drives the DC footprint requirements and the SKU slotting plan. Proper floor space and SKU slotting reduces congestion. Secondary product moves to reduce wasted labor costs and improve throughput. Good slotting practices in the forward picking areas and pick aisles not only improve picking efficiencies, it reduces replenishment labor and increases inventory accuracy.

Facility Sizing – are you out of space? Have you fully used the current cube capacity of your building prior to making a move to a new facility? Dense storage technologies, vertical storage modules, and multi level pick modules can be considered to extend the life of your current operation while adding efficiency to the order fulfillment process. Valuable building space can often be found by going up!

Lean Operations – A key aspect of planning is to lean up your operations and engineer out the non-valued touches and material movement in the operations. Determine which steps can be eliminated in your picking and packing operation. 

For example, it may be more efficient to pick A and B movers in high-speed pick zones using conveyor or batch pick carts and have a parallel picking process to manage the C and D SKU’s, then consolidate fast and slow movers using an order consolidation put wall at packing. These issues and picking processes should be compared and contrasted during the design, and possibly modeled to select the right process improvement.

Find and root out wasted labor! For instance, if your operation uses four or more people to do the mundane tasks of manually building cartons, hand-taping boxes, and manually manifesting and labeling shipments, there are several ways to cut costs and eliminate the bottleneck in the pack and ship operation.

Technologies as simple as a semi-automatic carton taper and carton erector can deliver a huge ROI by eliminating low value labor while increasing employee productivity and job satisfaction.

Invest in Technology – Warehouse automation software, called Warehouse Execution and Control software, WES-WCS magnifies good processes and practices. It must have scalable architecture and contain all the software components to manage material handling equipment and order fulfillment processes.

One of the most significant cost-savings automation modules found in a tier one WES-WCS is voice picking. The latest generation voice picking technology, referred to as a voice suite, is proven to lower labor costs and increase accuracy to deliver an outstanding ROI.

Advanced solutions such as Numina’s RDS™ Victory Voice™ Suite goes beyond traditional voice picking applications and blend voice-directed workforce management together with the entire pick, pack, and ship process and other automation technologies.

The highest ROI happens with order fulfillment processes that are united and automated. To achieve this, the voice suite you choose must have scalability and capabilities to cost-effectively manage as little as 10 pickers in a DC, yet scale to 100+ concurrent users without any degradation in performance.

It must be able to support multiple picking strategies and include order release management, cartonization logic to enable efficient pick and pack direct to the shipping carton, and include labor tracking and performance metrics reporting. 

Numina’s RDS Victory Voice Suite meets all of the functionality outlined above and is designed to manage and enforce better order fulfillment processes.

It is a multi-modal application combining voice commands and hands-free barcode scan validation to increase picking speeds and drive 99.9% single-touch pick and pack order accuracy. 

Victory Voice includes tools to both manage forward picking inventory replenishment and cycle counting and storage location slotting practices. It includes a velocity-based SKU slotting measurement software module.

It assists in keeping the highest moving SKUs located along the shortest order-picking travel path. Victory Voice measures SKU velocity during the picking process to identify and report poorly slotted or changing velocity SKUs to alert management that an item requires re-slotting.

Mobile Warehouse Robots – Autonomous mobile robots (AMRs) technology has rapidly advanced and become a cost-effective solution for small to larger distribution operations. AMRs, combined with voice-directed picking, can increase the picking process efficiency by an additional 15 – 20% by coordinating the operators picking tasks with AMR cart movement through the pick and pack operation.

Adding AMRs to a batch cart pick process eliminates non-value labor of an operator manually pushing carts between zones and moving the pick-completed carts to the pack area.

Numina Warehouse Automation Design Services

  • Quickly and cost effectively uncover the right processes and blend of automation to increase order fulfillment productivity 35 to 70% or more!
  • Our experienced software engineers will assist your team in developing lean, low-touch processes and then implement the automation with a payback of typically 12- to 24-month return on investment. 

Contact us today to arrange a complimentary site review meeting and discuss your needs. 

The Numina Group has over 35 years of experience designing and implementing warehouse automation solutions to maximize capacity, increase accuracy, and reduce labor costs.

Our RDS™ Victory Voice Suite and WES-WCS can seamlessly integrate pick by voice, pick to light, conveyor systems, AMRs, AS/RS, pack to light order consolidation, in-motion scan-weigh-dim, and print-and-apply labeling into a united and automated order fulfillment solution.

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