This post is the fourth in a 7 part series entitled ‘An All Around Approach’. We will focus this series on how we provide cost reductions for our customers throughout the entire organization.
In our Fastener Distribution Center we believe the core to a best in class system is our use of technology, processes and procedures. Standardizing of processes offers consistent results regardless of what team member processes that transaction. One of the ways we are able to standardize is through the use of technology. The use of technology allows the information in our systems to drive our production. From the moment a part hits our receiving dock the use of our standard processes and use of technology is clear. Our receiving team is the first to check the product that comes from our supply base. They inspect it, check the diameter, head style, and thread count to make sure that what we ordered for our customer is what we received. This reduces the chances for error and the cost associated with shipping and returning product.
The product is then labeled for inventory and then stocked into a location in the warehouse. Parts flow from our receiving docks to the appropriate bin locations via system directed put away allowing for a streamlined approach of putting the product to be in the most optimal location for our pickers.
Our shipping team then receives orders from our customers, the system generates a ticket with the order information on it including the location in the warehouse of the product. Our shipping team picks the product (our ‘pickers’) will then scan the ticket and follow the location on their scanning system. The picker has with him all the tools necessary to complete the order right there on the warehouse floor. Our pickers have carts that have RF scanner, scales to weigh our product, mobile printer to make labels, boxes, bags, and all the other tools they need to complete an order where the parts are. This saves our team significant time from having to go get the parts and bring them back to a location to be processed and packed. We call this cart process ‘carts to parts’, simply because we take our carts to the parts. This process also reduces our cost of labor; we can get more done in a shorter amount of time because no one is running around carrying parts everywhere.
While carts to parts is an excellent process, what makes this so much more efficient is the way the system generates the ‘picking’ process. When a picker scans the order ticket the scanner gun will automatically populate the parts in order of ‘best route’ through the warehouse. Having the system generate the fastest route through our warehouse saves us time from going back and forth from one area to another.
As we continue to strive for a lean process in our warehouse we’ve made carts to parts even more simplistic by creating zones in the warehouse and having a team member assigned to each zone. Having a smaller area, managed by one team member, then our system creating the best route in that smaller area, allows for our team to get the orders processed more efficiently and effectively. This system allows us to generate more orders in a shorter amount of time, with minimal labor costs.
Once a batch of orders has been picked, it is then dropped off to our consolidation area where our VMI orders are then sorted. The labels we print out and put on the boxes contains product information and the location of the product at the customer site. Our team can then sort the boxes in order of location at the customer site, allowing our VMI On-Site delivery team members to quickly put these parts away at the customer’s specified location. This process takes the whole team approach to processing orders, by us investing more time in the consolidation process it allows our VMI team to reduce wasted time of sorting put away items at a customer facility and allows them to increase productivity as well.
The DC Operations Team embraces the concept of continuous improvement and we believe that great ideas come from within our team. Our team continually focuses on getting better which allows us the ability to find cost savings to our customers thru reduction of labor. Our team is encouraged to provide feedback, help reduce waste and take ownership and accountability for every transaction they touch. The output is a team that is engaged and committed and that cares about the quality of the output of their work ultimately reducing quality errors and downtime creating more value for our customers.
Author: John Oldham, DC