In warehouses, distribution centers, or even stores the placement of each item can be a science, sometimes it’s an art, often it just is what it is. Stuff goes wherever it will fit, entropy kicks in and randomness takes over. Then before you know it there’s little rhyme or reason as to which items go where.
Product Slotting is defined as finding the optimal location of product in a warehouse or distribution center for the purpose of improving material handling efficiency. Sometimes called inventory slotting, profiling, or warehouse optimization slotting identifies the most efficient placement for each item. Product slotting depends on a variety of factors such as picking volume and frequency, receiving and put-away volume and frequency, package dimensions and weight, picked package size, storage package size, material handling equipment used, layout of the facility, labor rates, etc.
Benefits from good product slotting include:
- Picking Productivity – Travel time can often account for up to 60% of a picker’s daily activity. A good product slotting and pick path strategy can reduce travel time thereby reducing picking labor, a significant cost factor.
- Efficient Replenishment – By sizing the pick face locations based upon a standard unit of measure (case, pallet) for the product in question you can significantly reduce the labor required to replenish the location.
- Work Balancing – By balancing activity across multiple pick zones you can reduce congestion in the zones, improve material flow, and reduce the total response time for a given order or batch of orders.
- Load Building – To minimize product damage, heavy products are located at the beginning of the pick path ahead of lighter more fragile product. Product can also be located based on case size to facilitate pallet building.
- Accuracy – Similar products are separated to minimize the opportunity for picking errors.
- Ergonomics – High velocity products are placed in a “golden zone” to reduce bending and reaching activity. Heavy or over-sized items are placed on lower levels in the pick zone or placed in a separate zone where material handling equipment can be utilized.
- Pre-Consolidation – By storing and picking product by family group you may be able reduce downstream sorting and consolidation activity. This is particularly important in a retail environment to facilitate efficient restocking at the stores.
The Importance of On-going Product Slotting Maintenance is that warehouse operations managers typically do a good job of slotting their warehouse initially but over time customer demand changes, products come and go, and before long labor costs are way up, order fulfillment rates are way down, and response times are impacting customer service.
It is critical to continually re-slot the warehouse to keep it operating at maximum efficiency. Some of our clients re-slot their highest movers on a daily or weekly basis. Need help with your slotting?