Maximum throughput in a distribution center
Efficiency is key to the success of your distribution center. You want to accurately fulfill as many orders as possible in the shortest amount of time. This not only means maintaining sufficient inventory, but also keeping all order fulfillment mechanisms (such as conveyors, carousels with bins, aisles of multiple bins, and pods) working to capacity. A pod, for example, can be considered as a group of inventory locations, serviced from the same stop on a transport system in your distribution center. As you know, each order can include a wide range of items, from milk to anchovies to tofu. How can you consistently get these diverse orders fulfilled as quickly as possible, and as accurately as possible?
One solution streamlines the process and helps maximize your throughput by reducing the number of stops a container makes in fulfilling each order. As an example, the proprietary system identifies the pod that currently stocks the largest number of different items in an order, allowing your transport system to move a container for the order to that pod first. This permits as many order items as possible to be gathered in a single stop.
Once the container is at the pod, an automated material handling system can help your employees gather the ordered items. One way to increase accuracy in picking the items is by indicating their locations audibly and/or visually within the pod. If the same item is stored in several places, the system can be programmed to select the location with the oldest stock first to reduce waste.Your employees can be equipped with handheld wireless scanners to scan item bar codes and container license plates. The captured information can be wirelessly transmitted to a computing device in the center to accurately and precisely track item locations and movements in the center.Assuming all the items in the order are not at the first pod, the system can then identify the pod holding the largest number of remaining items, continuing until the order is complete. Intelligent identification of all the pod(s) for all items in the order allows the container to be routed on the most efficient path through the distribution center, shortening the order fulfillment process. If a problem is detected along the determined path, such as a malfunctioning carousel, the solution can automatically select another path.Many distribution centers have more than one ambient (refrigerators, freezers, humidors, wine cellars, pharmacy etc., each with its own pods and transport systems). For customer orders with items from more than one ambient, the same protocol can be followed in each.This solution will allow you to confidently promise a variety of delivery windows to groups of prioritized customers, without compromising commitments made to others.