Getting maximum performance out of your warehouse process
Jul 27, 2011
Warehouses and distribution centres (DC) face continuous changes, such as changes in order patterns, seasonality, product range, and various peaks (peek days, peak weeks, peak months). As business changes over time, the logistics system needs to support these changes in the best possible way. Is capacity still sufficient? What are the bottle necks? Are the processes still adequate?
In a manual DC, these challenges are handled by adding more labour. But this lowers efficiency. In an automated DC, these challenges provide an opportunity to implement highly intelligent material handling systems, based on a thorough understanding of the supply chain and DC processes. The result: The DC is becoming a 'logistics plant', consisting of machinery, labour, processes, input and output. All these elements need to be optimized to be successful. It requires a significant level of knowledge of the processes, the technology and the people involved.
Process Engineering can be the key to logistics process improvement. Process Engineering focuses on the design, operation, control and optimization of processes, through the aid of systemic, computer based methods. Key steps are monitoring, data collection and information analysis. Computer systems can help to monitor daily processes by giving a direct overview of daily business performance. Process tracking can show trends in relevant performance parameters. Online simulation can show 'if-then-else' scenarios to support future planning steps.
Vanderlande Industries has significant experience in such process analysis and optimization. Our Business Process Intelligence (BPI) tool enables gathering, storing and analyzing process data, providing customers with the information they need to make better decisions. BPI stores information for long term analysis. The information is tailored to the various user groups, such as operators, supervisors, managers and process analysts. The tool is highly intuitive, making it easy to understand and learn.
Vanderlande can also offer Process Engineers, who coordinate the monitoring and data collection. The Process Engineer analyses this information and reports on a regular basis on the performance of the system against set Key Performance Indicators and proposes possible improvements. Involving a Vanderlande specialist ensures the right process information is available to the right people in the right format at the right time. The customer also benefits from the knowledge and experience Vanderlande has gained across its large installed base. Two examples:
A retail non-food customer was not sure if their system could accommodate their business growth. They were considering when it was time to invest in capacity expansion. With the BPI tool Vanderlande analysed one full year of data and recommended to change planning from 'push' to 'pull', to add a small buffer and to modify some settings. Now the system is fully prepared to accommodate a growth of 25%.
An automotive customer noticed they needed more time for picking and unloading than expected. The BPI tool was used to analyse actual performance and investigate the system's bottlenecks. An improvement plan was developed. Storage management was improved, operators received more training in picking procedures, information on the RF-terminals was modified and the realised performance per team was visualised. This resulted in a 20% performance improvement.
Customers that have implemented Vanderlande's BPI tool include Tesco (UK), DB Schenker (SE), Centraal Boekhuis (NL) and Onninen (FI).